Long Beach child gets monkeypox; LA County declares emergency

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 the city’s announcement Tuesday.

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. No further details were released.

Hours before the announcement, LA County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly J. Mitchell introduced a proclamation declaring a local state of emergency amid the growing disease. The action, which was ratified by the board, 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 LA County rose to 423 Tuesday, up more than 80% from a week prior, according to the county health department’s count of confirmed and suspected cases. The majority of cases have been confirmed in men who identify as part of the LGBTQ community.

LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the state and local emergency declarations would help her agency better respond to the virus — a task that has been stunted for weeks as the supply for monkeypox vaccines remains critically low.

“It does make a difference because it allows us easier access to some of the resources that we’re going to need,” Ferrer said. “It allows us to have more flexibility to use staff from other departments to help with the response.”

She said additional resources and staffing, especially for time-consuming processes such as contact tracing, education and outreach, and administering vaccines, will be a great help, especially as cases continue to rise.

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. Confirmed and suspected cases have grown to almost 50.

Los Angeles County and San Francisco far lead the state in cases, making up almost two-thirds of California’s nearly 800 infections. San Francisco last week declared a state of emergency for monkeypox, with cases surpassing 300 as of Monday.

Ferrer also announced Tuesday that LA recently received an additional 9,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine, allowing the county to expand eligibility for the inoculation and reopen an online registration process. Previous groups that already met eligibility for the shotincluding those who were exposed to the virus or had certain sexually transmitted diseases, will remain in place, but now also eligible are gay or bisexual men, or transgender persons, who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last two weeks.

The Jynneos is an approved and effective vaccine that can be used preventively or after exposure, although it remains in short supply. The lack of availability has led to growing frustration and long wait lists for the shot, especially among LGBTQ communities who remain most at risk.

“Even if we took everybody who was just at this higher risk, we don’t have enough doses for everybody in that in that group,” Ferrer said.

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