Dallas County declares monkey pox outbreak a health emergency

Dallas County declares monkey pox outbreak a health emergency

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued an emergency statement Friday morning over the monkeypox outbreak as top 200 virus cases.

The statement comes a day after the Biden administration declared monkey pox a federal public health emergency amid a nationwide vaccine shortage. Dallas County represents the bulk of cases in the state, with 209 confirmed and 29 suspected cases as of Thursday.

Worried about monkey pox? This is what you need to know

“We’re going to beat monkey pox by tracking down people who have been in contact with a person with monkey pox, testing them and getting the vaccine now to the most vulnerable populations,” Jenkins said at a news conference.

The provincial health department recently expanded eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine to include men who have sex with men who have had multiple or anonymous partners in the past two weeks. Originally, it was only available to those who had direct contact with an infected person. But the additional appointments are still not enough to meet the demand.

Dallas County received a shipment of just over 5,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine last week.

Jenkins said the county will use the emergency declaration to try to get more doses of the vaccine, which are being distributed by the federal government. Unlike emergency declarations made during the COVID-19 pandemic, Monkeypox’s emergency declaration does not require any business closures.

“We trust that businesses that are open every day, such as clubs where people dance, are responsible,” Jenkins said. “You can still go dancing, just make sure you have your shirt on and limit skin-to-skin contact with strangers.”

Monkeypox, a virus similar to the now-extinct smallpox virus, spreads primarily through skin-to-skin contact or contact with contaminated materials such as bedding or clothing. The virus causes flu-like symptoms and a blister-like rash that can be on or near the genitals.

The symptoms, which can be very painful, usually begin within three weeks of exposure to the virus. The disease usually lasts two to four weeks and is rarely fatal.

The county health director, Dr. Philip Huang, said there have been some hospitalizations related to the current monkeypox outbreak, but did not have an exact number. Most cases have occurred in men who have sex with men, although the virus can spread to anyone regardless of sexual orientation.

Huang urged people at high risk for monkey pox not to try to get the vaccine.

“But if you…are in one of those at-risk groups, please contact us and get on our waiting list,” he said.

Dallas expands monkeypox vaccine eligibility, but some are frustrated with limited access

Dallas County struggled with high bubble volumes on Tuesday following the expansion of vaccine eligibility. Jenkins tweeted that people who call the monkeypox hotline may have to try multiple times to reach a operator.

The health department is working with several community partners — including Abounding Prosperity, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Community Health Empowerment and Prism Health North Texas — to distribute the limited vaccine doses.

Prism Health, an HIV/AIDS health care organization, opened appointments Wednesday for the 300 doses of vaccine it received from the province. Within an hour, every spot was filled, said CEO Dr. John Carlos.

In addition to vaccinations, public health measures such as social distancing and isolation if someone is infected with monkeypox can also help prevent the spread of the virus. During the press conference, Jenkins said he was concerned about large gatherings such as festivals that could expose people most at risk from the virus.

At a meeting of the Commissioners Court on Tuesday, Huang asked commissioners if he could move $100,000 from the preventive health department to respond to the monkeypox outbreak. The commissioners unanimously approved the request.

The funds will help cover research, monitoring and staffing needs.

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