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San Diego County declares monkeypox local health emergency

The county’s latest response to the virus comes after California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Monday, becoming the third state in four days to respond to the rapidly spreading disease
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A patient gets a monkeypox vaccine at a recent vaccination event.

San Diego County leaders declared a state of emergency on Tuesday due to rising numbers of monkeypox cases in the region. 

Health and elected officials in the region aim to increase vaccination efforts as the number of cases climbed to 46 this week. The county’s latest response to the virus comes after California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Monday, becoming the third state in four days to respond to the rapidly spreading disease. 

Local officials say their priorities are to educate the public on monkeypox, prevent the virus from spreading, and vaccination. The county reported its first monkeypox case on June 15, and all cases since were males between the ages of 27 to 58 years. 

“At this time, monkeypox outbreaks are disproportionately impacting our LGBTQ community, but we know it can spread to others,'' Fletcher said. “And it is vitally important that we not stigmatize any individual, that we not stigmatize any community, that we not cast any aspersions.''

As of Monday, the state ranks second highest in the state for confirmed monkeypox cases with 824 monkeypox cases, behind 1,390 in New York. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 5,811 cases throughout the nation. 

Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County public health officer, said there are deaths associated with the virus locally, and one patient has required hospitalization. The local state of emergency declaration will allow the region to seek state assistance and use public health infrastructure for testing, contact tracing, and case investigation.

“All of these strategies were developed and strengthened during the COVID-19 response,'' Wooten said. “To prevent the community-wide spread of monkeypox infection, the key is prevention, and this includes vaccinations.''

Of the 3,987 doses received by the county, 2,454 doses are in the arms of San Diegans, and 1,533 are committed to distribution for public health purposes. So far, the county held two mass vaccination events, and vaccines have been made available to local healthcare providers. 

The County also set up a text message alert system to send San Diegans real-time information about monkeypox in the region. To sign up to receive the messages, text COSD MONKEYPOX to 468-311. A social media messaging and education campaign is underway to raise awareness about monkeypox.

For more information on monkeypox, how to prevent it, and who should get vaccinated, visit the County’s monkeypox website or call 2-1-1.