The Oregon Health Authority briefed media on the spread of Monkeypox on Aug. 11, explaining the statewide response to the disease that the White House declared a public health emergency at the start of the month. Monkeypox often starts with fevers and aches before evolving to painful blisters over the body.
OHA unveiled its new web page that tracks cases, gives tips on protection and information on how people can access vaccines. As of press time 95 people had tested positive for Monkeypox in Oregon, including 92 men and 3 women (update, 8/17/2022: OHA reported the state's first pediatric case on Aug. 17). The spread so far is mostly concentrated in gay and bisexual men in the tri-county Portland metro area, officials say, but there have also been a handful of cases in other counties.
- Courtesy Flickr
Public health officials said people who have sex with multiple partners and engage in close-contact activities like attending raves are at similar risk — while gay and bisexual men who don't have multiple sex partners or close-contact activities are less at risk. Officials stressed that this isn't like the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Although Monkeypox is a serious public health concern and is highly infectious in certain situations, it's not another COVID-19. Monkeypox does not spread the same way between people and is therefore not as easy to catch as COVID-19," said state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger. "The number of cases among individuals who have close intimate contact with someone who has monkeypox is increasing but we are not seeing, nor do we anticipate the same rapid spread."
Vaccines aren't available to the public yet and the near 7,000 vaccines OHA possesses are being rationed to people with known exposures to the disease. OHA will attempt to stretch its limited supply by using intradermal vaccination, which uses one-fifth of a typical dose by injecting into the outer layer of the skin. More than 2,000 people have signed on to a waitlist to get vaccinated.
Sidelinger said though it's not another pandemic, monkeypox could be around for a while. Its mode of transmission prevents the more pronounced public health impacts and shutdowns, but the outbreak could last years.