The monkeypox health crisis: how California is responding

By Tanu Henry | California Black Media

As the monkeypox virus outbreak spreads around the world, Governor Gavin Newsom said California will need to galvanize forces in all regions and relax some state regulations and laws to combat a disease that represents a greater threat than local authorities may be able to respond effectively.

“California is working urgently at all levels of government to slow the spread of monkeypox, leveraging our robust testing, contact tracing and strengthened community partnerships during the pandemic to ensure those most at risk are our priority for vaccines, treatment and awareness,” the governor said on August 1 when declaring a state of emergency in California.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) began collecting and reporting racial and demographic data, tracking the impact of the disease on various groups across the state.

The governor’s state of emergency follows similar measures taken in San Francisco, New York and Illinois. On July 23, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a “public health emergency.”

On August 4, the federal government also declared monkeypox a national public health emergency.

“We are ready to take our response to the next level to fight this virus and we urge all Americans to take monkeypox seriously,” said the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and former Attorney General of California, Xavier Becerra.

CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás J. Aragón welcomes the federal health emergency as it opens channels for California to have better access to resources to slow down the spread of the disease.

“We hope today’s action will inject additional federal funds and resources into our collective response efforts. The state remains focused on slowing the spread of the virus in affected communities, administering the limited number of vaccine doses we have, and raising awareness about prevention measures and access to treatment,” Aragón said. , before adding that California is “well positioned”. to fight the epidemic.

Although monkeypox is not considered fatal, the disease can be fatal for certain categories of people, according to public health authorities. The symptoms of the disease – sores and blisters – can also be extremely painful in some cases.

“Over 99% of people who contract this form of the disease are likely to survive. However, people with weakened immune systems, children under age 8, people with a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be more likely to become seriously ill or die,” reports the CDC. .

According to the governor’s office, the CDPH has taken a number of steps to expand access to vaccinations and the state has launched a public information campaign, relying primarily on webinars and town hall meetings to disseminate information. on monkeypox statewide.

“The CDPH also expands treatment options. Access to the prescription antiviral drug tecovirimat (Tpoxx) used to treat monkeypox is limited, but the treatment can now be administered at more than 30 facilities and providers across the state,” states a press release issued by Newsom’s office.

As of August 2, the state has distributed nearly 1,713 treatments and 168 intravenous doses of tecovirimat to health centers in various locations across the state.

CDPH has received just over 109,000 monkeypox vaccines so far – 51,000 doses of which have been distributed to local health departments across the state.

Among black Californians, 129 cases have been reported so far, representing about 11% of all confirmed cases in the state. African Americans make up about 6.5% of the state’s total population.

As of August 5, the CDPH reports that there have been 1,310 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the state, with the most confirmed cases reported in Los Angeles (431), followed by San Francisco (398) and County of Alameda (83). There have been 7,509 confirmed cases in the United States and 28,220 worldwide.

Shortly after the governor declared a state of emergency, Shane Harris of the Peoples Association of Justice Activists, a San Diego-based advocacy group, called on San Diego County officials to release demographic data on monkeypox cases there.

“The governor declared a state of emergency last night and voters deserve to know the truth about this virus in our area,” Harris said at a news conference. “My office made this argument during COVID that we needed more demographics, and the county’s response is that we didn’t have enough cases at that time. I want them to know that this answer won’t work this time. There are never too few cases.

At the state level, CDPH has begun disaggregating the Monkeypox data it collects by race, city, hospitalizations, gender, age, and sexual orientation.

The age group with the highest number of reported monkeypox cases (482) is 25-34 year olds, who account for approximately 36.8% of all confirmed infections in California.

“We will continue to work with the federal government to get more vaccines, raise awareness about harm reduction, and support the LGBTQ community in the fight against stigma,” Newsom added.

Aragón echoed the governor’s statement.

“Our team is also committed to reducing stigma within the LGBTQ community, which has been singled out and treated unfairly because of this outbreak. No individual or community is to blame for the spread of a virus,” Aragón added.

When it comes to race, Harris said it’s important to approach the containment and treatment of monkeypox with the same “perspective and passion” that has characterized the state government’s response during the COVID pandemic. -19.

“Race and ethnicity were very important during COVID because we studied the very impact of cultural competency relating to COVID – how different communities dealt with it. It’s still very important today,” Harris said.

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