A child in Long Beach has contracted monkeypox, health officials said hours after Los Angeles County leaders proclaimed a local emergency amid the spreading illness.
“While news of a pediatric case may cause alarm, please remember that monkeypox is still rare, is much more difficult to get than COVID-19 and other common childhood illnesses, and is rarely dangerous,” Dr. Anissa Davis, city health officer, said in Long Beach’s announcement Tuesday.
The child in Long Beach is the second in California to contract monkeypox and the fifth known pediatric case in the U.S.
Long Beach health officials, who said they’re waiting for additional testing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm the infection, added that the child was symptomatic but has since recovered. A spokesperson for the city confirmed the child’s infection was linked to household members but declined to disclose further information.
Earlier in the day, L.A. County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly J. Mitchell introduced a proclamation declaring a local emergency over the rising cases of monkeypox. The action, which the board unanimously ratified, is an effort to bolster the county’s response to the outbreak. The day before, California declared a state of emergency because of the virus.
“This is a serious health issue that deserves support and swift action,” Mitchell said. “The proclamation of local emergency is to help our county do all that we can to get ahead and stay ahead of this virus.”
Monkeypox cases in L.A. County rose to 423 on Tuesday, up more than 80% from a week prior, according to the county health department’s count of confirmed and probable cases. The majority of cases have been confirmed in men who identify as part of the LGBTQ community, county data show.
In Long Beach, there have been 20 confirmed or probable cases, and Pasadena reported its first four cases Tuesday. The two cities have their own public health departments and therefore report cases separately from Los Angeles County.
L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the state and local emergency declarations would help her agency better respond to the virus, as would a new shipment of 19,000 additional vaccines the county received over the weekend. Health officials and LGBTQ activists have for weeks raised concerns over the number of available vaccines, which has limited who can access the preventative and post-exposure inoculations.
But Ferrer said the emergency declaration “does make a difference because it allows us easier access to some of the resources that we’re going to need.”
“It allows us to have more flexibility to use staff from other departments to help with the response,” she said, a move that is especially important in assisting with contract tracing, education and outreach, and vaccine distribution, she added.
The outbreak in California — and across the world — continues to disproportionately affect men who have sex with men, as well as transgender and nonbinary people, though anyone can catch the virus through close skin-to-skin contact or through fabrics that have touched the virus.
San Diego also declared a local emergency for the virus Tuesday, where confirmed and suspected cases have grown to almost 50.
Los Angeles County and San Francisco, though, far lead the state in cases, making up almost two-thirds of California’s more than 1,100 infections. San Francisco last week declared a state of emergency for monkeypox, with cases surpassing 380 as of Monday.
Ferrer said Tuesday that the federal government recently allotted L.A. County an additional 48,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine, which will be sent in three shipments, the first of which arrived over the weekend. The latest 19,000 doses — which nearly equal the previous total the county had received — allowed the county to expand eligibility for the vaccine and reopen an online registration process.
Previous groups that already met eligibility for the shot — including those who were exposed to the virus — are still eligible, public health officials said, but qualifications have now been been expanded and simplified to any gay or bisexual man or transgender person who has had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last two weeks. People need only to self-attest that they meet these requirements through online registration.
People who are eligible for the vaccine also can call 211 for help finding and registering for a shot, officials said, or they can contact their community health clinic or provider to see whether it has been designated as a vaccine site.
The county also announced a new vaccine clinic will open Wednesday in West Hollywood. Many LGBTQ advocates had pressed for such a site, noting facilities near the epicenter of L.A.’s queer community were lacking.
Ferrer said it’s not clear when the remaining 29,000 doses will arrive in L.A. County, but she hopes this month. Still, she cautioned that allotment may not be enough.
“Even if we took everybody who was just at this higher risk, we don’t have enough doses for everybody in that group,” Ferrer said. She called monkeypox a “similar challenge” to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic because of the short supply of vaccines and testing.
“It will be difficult to do what we all want to do, which is really make sure that we’re able to actually eliminate the continued transmission of monkeypox in the United States,” Ferrer said. “I don’t think it’s impossible.”
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