CA monkeypox update: Latest virus numbers in Fresno area

Seven total cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Fresno County, local health officials said Friday afternoon, and they expressed concern that the virus and its highly contagious rash could spread to more of people.

This is an increase from the three cases reported on July 28.

Across California and across the country, the vast majority of monkeypox cases occur in men who have sex with men, but cases also appear in people outside of that demographic, Dr. Fresno County Department acting health officer Rais Vohra. of Public Health.

“There’s a lot of misinformation. You may have heard it’s an STD” (sexually transmitted disease), Vohra said Friday during a video briefing with reporters.

“It really is a disease that is transmitted by close contact, whether sexual or not. It can therefore spread whenever a person comes into contact with the lesions of the rash caused by monkeypox.

“It’s not necessarily related to sexual activity,” he added. “Body fluids, wounds on the skin of an infected person, even materials an infected person has touched, such as clothing, linens, plates, utensils or cups, are all considered transmission vectors.

The county health department has a dedicated monkeypox webpage, including frequently asked questions, which is publicly available at

So far in Fresno County, Vohra said the seven patients have been men between the ages of 20 and 50. All are recovering at home.

Vohra and Joe Prado, deputy director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health, both warned that although monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, the rash and lesions are sufficiently similar to some real ones. STDs circulating in the area.

Accordingly, they urge anyone suffering from a rash to get tested not only for monkeypox, but also for syphilis, gonorrhea and others to rule them out of the diagnosis or rule them out of treatment.

“It’s really important to look at these other illnesses,” said Mary Morrisson, a Fresno County public health nurse. “We heard stories of people thinking they had monkeypox, but it was actually syphilis. We are grateful that they were tested, and now we know and they can get treatment.

Vohra said history has shown that some diseases start in a small segment of the population, “for example, in the gay population, but then jump up and become something that affects almost all demographics.” He added that it was “an unspoken concern (for monkeypox) that may be driving some of the emergency declarations” from California state and federal leaders.

“We saw this in syphilis in 2014 and 2015,” when it was mostly in men who have sex with men, Morrisson said, with very few cases in other segments of the population. of Fresno County. But in mid-2016, “we were in the middle of an epidemic, and this epidemic is now our new normal, unfortunately.”

“So yeah, we’ve seen that with syphilis, and I think it’s easy to think it could happen with monkeypox as well,” Morrisson added.

Despite all the attention given to monkeypox, Prado said Fresno County and the entire Central Valley, “we have high incidence rates of sexually transmitted diseases, whether it’s gonorrhea, chlamydia , syphilis and congenital syphilis as well”.

“We have higher syphilis rates, higher gonorrhea rates and higher chlamydia rates in this community than we have monkeypox, no matter how you look at the numbers,” he added.

County investigation teams are contacting known close contacts of current monkeypox patients to urge them to self-isolate and get vaccinated with the monkeypox vaccine to limit the potential spread of the virus, which is linked to smallpox but much more benign.

In recent weeks, available vaccine doses allocated to Fresno County by the California Department of Public Health have been extremely limited, but more vaccines are being made available.

Prado said vaccine eligibility remains limited to known close contacts of confirmed patients; people who have already been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease and who may be at higher risk of contracting the monkey; and anyone who has been to a location where a known exposure to monkeypox has occurred within the past two weeks.

Vohra said it is best for a person to receive their first injection of the vaccine – as part of a two-dose regimen with injections four weeks apart – within four days of their initial exposure if possible. “That’s why we are working as quickly as possible with the seven cases that have been identified.”

“We know that number will increase,” he added. “It might even become a fungus; Knock on wood, it won’t, but we have to anticipate that eventuality.

Vohra said that in addition to the rash that characterizes the monkeypox virus, other symptoms resemble “a flu-like illness”.

“Some people describe chills, fatigue, body aches, low energy,” he said. “Sometimes they have headaches, backaches and sometimes swollen lymph nodes. But it’s really that rash that’s going to make people seek treatment.

Vohra said the lesions can last two to three weeks before they dry up, crust over and fall off, at which point a person is no longer contagious.

“The vast majority of people will heal on their own,” Vohra said. “Most people can feel a fair amount of pain (from the rash), but it’s something that can be managed at home. … A very small number, probably less than 10%, may have severe symptoms.

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Lifelong Valley resident Tim Sheehan has worked as a reporter and editor in the area since 1986 and has worked for The Fresno Bee since 1998. He is currently The Bee’s data reporter and also covers the California High Speed ​​Rail Project and other transportation issues. He grew up in Madera, has a degree in journalism from Fresno State and a master’s degree in leadership studies from Fresno Pacific University.
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