SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — Health officials in the South Bay released monkeypox infection data by race and ethnicity Wednesday showing that 21 of Santa Clara County’s 39 reported cases are in people who are Hispanic or Latino.

This mirrors San Francisco, which leads the state in cases, where as KRON4 reported earlier this week 30% of cases were in the Latino community. The numbers are striking considering that the Hispanic or Latino population make up 25% of the population of Santa Clara County and 15% of the population of San Francisco — suggesting the region’s public health authorities need to strengthen their outreach in the community.

“Public Health is about equity and making sure all people have access to the health care they need,” Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s health chief, stated in a press release.

As KRON4 reported Wednesday, Cody announced the county is receiving 700 more doses of vaccine. It has already administered almost as much.

“We are doing all we can to vaccinate the people who need it most, with the limited vaccine supply available,” Cody continued. “We could not do this successfully without the support and collaboration of community partners and health care providers.”

Vaccines are being distributed at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Expo Hall in San Jose and although appointments are fully booked, there will be more available once the federal and state governments come through with more vaccines.

“As more monkeypox vaccine become available, we will be ready to vaccinate people who need it the most, at a convenient and familiar location at the Fairgrounds,” Dr. Jennifer Tong, the associate chief medical officer with the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, stated. “During the pandemic, the county has become an expert at standing up vaccine clinics to reach the most vulnerable people in our community. We’re taking the same approach for monkeypox.”

People in Santa Clara County are eligible for the monkeypox vaccine if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have had “direct physical contact” with someone confirmed to have monkeypox,
  • Attended an event or venue where a person contagious with the monkeypox virus was at the event or venue and had “direct physical contact” with others there,
  • Is a gay, bisexual or other cisgender man who has sex with men, or is a transgender man or woman who has sex with men, and meets at least one of the following criteria:
    • Has a recent history of multiple or anonymous sexual partners,
    • Participates in group sex,
    • Attends or works at sex-on-premises venues, such as bathhouses or sex clubs,
    • Is a sex worker, and/or
    • Has been diagnosed with at least one bacterial sexually transmitted infection, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis, in the past 12 months.

“If you are a gay or bisexual man who does NOT meet at least one of the risk criteria above, you are not eligible for a monkeypox vaccine,” the county advises.

San Francisco alone will be receiving 4,220 doses of the smallpox/monkeypox vaccine Jynneos, over 40% of the state’s most allotment.

Of the remaining cases in Santa Clara county, eight are in people who are non-Hispanic white, six are in people who are Asian or Pacific Islander, two are in people who are Black or African-America, and the race/ethnicity of two people are unaccounted for.

United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and San Francisco Department of Public Health statistics show the current outbreak is primarily affecting men who have sex with men; though at least 13 U.S. cases as of Monday have been diagnosed in people who were assigned female sex at birth. The virus is spread through close skin-on-skin contact and an adviser on sexually transmitted infections with the World Health Organization stated experts have not determined whether it is a sexually transmitted infection per se, though it is “clearly transmitted during sex.”

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What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Symptoms of monkeypox include onset of flu-like symptoms and distinctive rashes or sores that could look like pimples or blisters. CDC statistics show the most common reported symptoms are rash (99%), malaise (70%) and fever (64%).

While the red, flat spots which become bumps can be anywhere on the body, they are most likely in the current outbreak to affect the genital or rectal areas, or the fingers, mouth or eyes. The spots become bumps, which break and crust over into a scab. They may be itchy, but not necessarily.

Further, some people only get one or some of these symptoms; it is possible to have a fever but never a rash, or have these symptoms sequentially and not concurrently.

What is the monkeypox vaccine?

The monkeypox virus is in the orthopoxvirus family alongside smallpox, for which routine vaccination in the U.S. ended in 1972 after the disease was declared eradicated here. Jynneos, a vaccine approved for both smallpox and monkeypox, is at least 85% effective against monkeypox, though its effectiveness reduces over time.

Getting the vaccine within 14 days of exposure can prevent or mitigate disease risk, as the incubation period can be weeks.

Healthcare providers should test for other infections with similar symptoms, such as syphilis. Tests for monkeypox are confirmed at specialized labs.

Side-effects of the vaccine could include redness, pain or swelling at the injection site, muscle pain, headache, fatigue and nausea.

Who can get a monkeypox infection?

While “many of the cases are occurring within networks of gay, bisexual, trans people, and men who have sex with men,” SF DPH spokesperson Noel Sanchez stated, anyone can become infected with the monkeypox virus.

“SFDPH takes monkeypox seriously,” Sanchez stated. “While most cases resolve on their own without pills or treatment, monkeypox can be serious. We are trying to contain outbreaks and reduce transmission to avoid the virus spreading to more people and potentially becoming endemic. To that end, we are doing education and outreach to communities most at risk; tracking monkeypox cases; distributing and administering vaccines as a preventative measure to people at high risk because of an exposure; and supporting testing and clinical guidance to providers, among other efforts.”

Sanchez advises people to:

  • cover exposed skin in crowds
  • avoid sharing bedding and clothing
  • talk with close physical and sexual contacts about health, rashes and sores
  • be aware of symptoms

A Spanish virtual town hall on monkeypox put on by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation will take place at 6 p.m. on Thursday. For more information, click here.