As the summer season begins with increased travel and major events and gatherings, Bay Area health officials urge people to protect themselves against the monkeypox virus, which spreads through prolonged skin-to-skin contact and bodily fluids, such as through crowded settings or sexual contact.
The alert from nine health jurisdictions comes as cases – which appear on individuals as distinctive rashes and sores that can look like blisters or pimples – continue to emerge in the Bay Area, the nation and the globe. Monkeypox is not new, but this is the first time this virus has spread in so many countries at once.
Most cases of monkeypox resolve on their own, although they can be serious. The illness often begins with flu-like symptoms before the emergence of a rash and may last for 2 to 4 weeks. A post-exposure vaccination is available through healthcare providers.
Unlike COVID-19 which spreads easily through the air, the risk of monkeypox to the general public is currently low unless they engage in higher-risk behaviors. Having sex with multiple sex partners can increase a person’s risk of becoming infected when monkeypox is spreading in the community. Be aware of crowded, indoor spaces where people have close skin-to-skin contact, sex, kissing, and close breathing. The virus can also be spread through shared clothing or bedding.
Many of the cases currently appearing are within networks of self-identified gay and bisexual men, trans people, and men who have sex with men. People in these networks are currently at higher risk, though people of any sexual orientation or gender identity can become infected and spread monkeypox.
Bay Area health officials urge the media, government officials, and the community at-large to avoid stigmatizing a particular group or person for monkeypox, but rather support those at highest risk and keep others from becoming complacent.
“Monkeypox is not common in the Bay Area. By being mindful now about how to protect ourselves and each other, we can keep it that way,” said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, Contra Costa County health officer. “We are working closely with the state, neighboring counties and our community healthcare providers to keep the public informed about how to stay safe and what to do if they have symptoms or believe they may have been exposed.”
There are other contagious illnesses that can cause rash or skin lesions. For example, syphilis and herpes are much more common than monkeypox, can look similar, and should be treated too.
How to protect yourself:
- Consider covering exposed skin in dense, indoor crowds
- Don’t share bedding or clothing with others when possible
- Before having close, physical contact with others, talk to your partners about their health and any recent rashes or sores
- Stay aware if traveling to countries where there are outbreaks
How to protect others:
If you have symptoms particularly a rash consistent with monkeypox, or if you have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox:
- Stay home if you are feeling sick
- Contact a health care provider as soon as possible for an evaluation
- Avoid skin-to-skin, or close contact with others, including sexual contact, until a medical evaluation has been completed
- Inform sex partners about any symptoms you are experiencing
- Cover the rash with clean, dry, loose-fitting clothing
- Wear a well-fitted mask
- If you are contacted by public health officials, answer their confidential questions to help protect others who may have been exposed
No cases of monkeypox have been identified in Contra Costa County as of Thursday, but several cases have been confirmed in neighboring Bay Area counties.
For more information about monkeypox: