Credit: (source: livescience.com)

Breanna Reeves |

As the world continues to grapple with COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the spread of monkeypox a global health emergency on July 22. WHO noted that the outbreak has spread across 75 different countries and territories and cases exceed 16,000, about five times more than the 3,040 cases reported in June.

WHO’s Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the decision to declare an emergency despite not being advised to do so by an emergency committee of experts. The committee failed to reach a consensus regarding the declaration on July 22, and previously decided against declaring a public health emergency a month ago when they first convened. 

Ghebreyesus stated that under International Health Regulations, he is required to consider five elements in deciding “whether an outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.” Some of the elements include considering information that the virus has spread rapidly across countries, advice of the Emergency Committee and the risk to human health and international spread.

“So in short, we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly, through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little,” Ghebreyesus stated during a news conference.

Following the declaration, WHO issued several temporary recommendations for countries that fall into four groups:

  • Group 1: Countries that have not reported a case of monkeypox
  • Group 2: Countries that are reporting human-to-human transmission
  • Group 3: Countries reporting transmission between humans and animals
  • Group 4: Countries with the ability to manufacture vaccines and therapeutics

Recommendations for countries that fall into Group 1 include developing and intensifying “epidemiological disease surveillance”, which includes access to affordable diagnostic tests, for example. Recommendations that apply to Group 2 include adopting measures that monitor travelers suspected of having monkeypox or being in contact with a suspected person and recommend avoiding travel until they are no longer a public health risk.

Monkeypox cases on the rise in California

As cases continue to increase worldwide, California has reported 434 cases, with more than 100 reported in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. Local health officials have received monkeypox vaccines and have begun distributing them to eligible people.

In Los Angeles County, two groups, A and B, have been given priority for monkeypox vaccines due limited availability. According to the department of public health, people in Group A are identified as those who have been confirmed by the department to have had high-or-intermediate-risk contact with someone with monkeypox or people who attended an event where there was a high risk of exposure to individuals with confirmed monkeypox. 

Symptoms of monkeypox include rashes or sores, flu-like symptoms such as a headache or fever and muscle aches, according to the CDC and California Department of Public Health (Graphic by Breanna Reeves).

People in Group B are identified as gay or bisexual men and people who idenfity as transgender, are 18 years and older who have been diagnosed with gonorrhea in the past 12 months, are taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and those who have attended a venue where they had anonymous sex or sex with multiple partners within the past 21 days.

Monkeypox is spread through close personal contact with someone who has the virus. Symptoms include rashes, bumps or blisters that can appear anywhere on the body and can begin with flu-like symptoms like a fever or muscle aches.

According to WHO, the monkeypox outbreak has been largely concentrated among men who have sex with other men and those with multiple sexual partners. However, Ghebreyesus reminded reporters that “stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus.”

Local health officials and advocates have emphasized that anyone can get monkeypox, and the virus is not exclusive to gay and bisexual men.

San Bernardino County reports first case of monkeypox

San Bernardino County reported the first case of monkeypox on July 22. The virus was detected in a male resident of Fontana who recently traveled out of state, according to the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health.

“Most people who become infected with monkeypox experience only mild symptoms that resolve on their own after 2-4 weeks,” Dr. Sequeira, Health Officer, stated in a press release. “The risk of contracting monkeypox is low for the general public.”

Riverside County reported five additional monkeypox cases as of July 27, bringing the county’s total to 18 probable/confirmed, according to a tweet by Jose Arballo Jr., Senior Public Information Specialist at Riverside University Health System-Public Health. The five new cases include four men between the ages of 40 and 71 who live in eastern Riverside County, and one from western Riverside County, the first from the region.

Health officials in both San Bernardino County and Riverside County are currently working to make the vaccine more widely available. In a letter addressed to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health leaders in the state requested additional support with regard to monkeypox vaccines to mitigate the spread.

The letter recognized that California makes up 14% of cases in the U.S. and requested an estimate of 600,000 to 800,000 additional JYNNEOS vaccines to “expand eligibility to both confirmed and probable exposures, but also to those individuals who are at high-risk of the virus as a pre-exposure prophylaxis.”

Breanna Reeves

Breanna Reeves is a reporter in Riverside, California, and uses data-driven reporting to cover issues that affect the lives of Black Californians. Breanna joins Black Voice News as a Report for America Corps member. Previously, Breanna reported on activism and social inequality in San Francisco and Los Angeles, her hometown. Breanna graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Print & Online Journalism. She received her master’s degree in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics. Contact Breanna with tips, comments or concerns at breanna@voicemediaventures.com or via twitter @_breereeves.