Long Beach monkeypox cases rise to 9, health officials say

There are currently nine confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox in Long Beach, up from just one case earlier this month, health officials announced Monday.

All nine cases were men, said Long Beach Health Department spokesperson Laath Martin. Each reported contracting the virus through prolonged close skin-to-skin contact, including intimate contact, during the 21 days prior to their symptoms, said Martin.

None of the individuals required hospitalization and all are isolating and recovering at home, according to Martin.

Long Beach announced its first case on July 16.

The city’s Health Department is currently carrying out contact tracing and is notifying people who may have been exposed to confirmed cases and offering them a chance to get vaccinated, said Martin.

The JYNNEOS vaccine, though designed to be administered prior to infection, can protect against infection if taken within four days of exposure, according to LA County health officials. It can also lessen symptoms if taken within 14 days of exposure.

While the risk of contracting monkeypox remains low, Long Beach health officials are working closely with community health care providers, including sexual health clinics and LGBTQ+ centers, to provide vaccinations, education and guidance, according to Martin.

Because case numbers are still relatively low, and to protect patient privacy, the city is not releasing demographic data on monkeypox cases, said Martin. But Los Angeles County’s Public Health office has released data on its current cases, though it doesn’t include Long Beach.

There are 162 confirmed and probable monkeypox cases in LA County as of July 22, according to county health officials. Like Long Beach, all the cases are men. The vast majority (66%) are between the ages of 30 and 49, according to the county.

Eighty-five percent of the infected individuals identify as LGBTQ, according to the data.

Nearly half (43%) of the cases identify as White, with another 32% identifying as Latino and 7% as Black, according to the data.

Though men are currently making up 100% of confirmed and probable cases in Long Beach and Los Angeles County, Andrew Noymer, an associate professor of public health at UC Irvine, believes that it is “not possible” that only men are contracting the virus.

Noymer says that after health officials throughout the world announced that the virus, which is not a sexually transmitted disease, “found its way into the networks of men who have sex with men,” far more men than women began getting tested. This has skewed the picture of who is actually contracting monkeypox, according to Noymer.

“It’s very suspicious,” said Noymer of the current demographics of confirmed cases. “We need more testing. Massive amounts of testing.”

Long Beach expands monkeypox vaccine clinic operations; eligibility still limited

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Anthony Pignataro is an investigative reporter and editor for the Long Beach Post. He has close to three decades of experience in journalism leading numerous investigations and long-form journalism projects for the OC Weekly and other publications. He joined the Post in May 2021.
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