With cases of monkeypox now identified in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, there has been speculation about the infection and its danger to the general public.
San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein says she doesn’t expect the number of local cases to increase.
So far, one confirmed case has been identified in a county resident, and she says the man who contracted the virus likely contracted it outside of San Luis Obispo County.
“We have made an investigation into who the contacts are and have offered preventive vaccinations to them,” said Dr. Borenstein.
However, she acknowledges that due to limited supply, a monkeypox vaccine will not be available to everyone.
“We are cautiously making it available to those who have had direct contact with a known case,” she added.
Dr. Borenstein says the early symptoms of the infection often mirror those of the common cold or flu, with one notable exception.
“When the telltale rash appears, then it could be monkeypox and at that point health care should be sought,” said Dr. Borenstein.
In the weeks since cases of monkeypox began popping up across the country, studies show that nearly 1 in 5 Americans are worried about contracting the virus, with many also fearing an airborne spread of the infection.
But locals we spoke to say it will take a lot more than a case of monkeypox to raise their concerns.
“If we start hearing about our neighbors being quarantined, you see people with rashes coming in and out of Trader Joe’s, then we’re going to start picking up,” said Jim Dowdall, Arroyo Grande resident.
“Well, if it starts to be an epidemic. It doesn’t seem to be the case right now,” added Nipomo resident Bing Kunzig.
Dr. Borenstein also shared some reassurance for those who may be concerned about the spread and symptoms of monkeypox.
“Although it can be painful, while it can cause several weeks of disruption to someone’s life, we are not seeing hospitalizations or deaths in the same way that we have seen for many other diseases,” she said. “The general public should not be too concerned.”
However, Dr. Borenstein advises the community to take precautions and seek medical attention when necessary.
On Tuesday morning, Santa Barbara County public health officials gave the Board of County Supervisors an update on the monkeypox outbreak there. There will now be a weekly update on the virus at those meetings.