The Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services is expanding its monkeypox vaccination clinic hours as the virus becomes more prevalent throughout the city and county of Los Angeles.
There were nine confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox in Long Beach as of July 25, the Department of Health said in a news release. The city reported its first confirmed case of the virus on July 16.
“We expect there will be more cases in the coming weeks,” public health official Dr. Anissa Davis said in a July 25 email, noting that residents should take precautions to reduce their own risk of catching the virus, including limiting their number of sexual partners and avoiding high-risk areas, including clubs and public baths.
None of those infected with monkeypox in Long Beach to date have required hospitalization, according to the Department of Health. All are quarantined and being recovered at home.
The Ministry of Health also announced an extension of opening hours for monkeypox vaccination clinics in a bid to prevent further spread of the virus. Starting July 25, all city-run vaccination clinics will be open Monday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., the health ministry said. Vaccine supplies are still scarce, officials said, meaning vaccines will only be available to those who meet eligibility requirements and by appointment only.
“Although the risk of monkeypox is low, health officials urge community members to remain vigilant and aware of symptoms and possible exposure,” the statement read. “The Department of Health continues to work closely with community health care providers, including sexual health clinics and LGBTQ+ centers, to provide vaccinations, education and counseling.”
Residents of Long Beach may be eligible for a monkeypox vaccine if they meet the following conditions:
- People who have been exposed to someone with confirmed monkeypox and have no symptoms.
- People who attended an event/place where there was a high risk of exposure to someone with confirmed monkeypox.
- Gay or bisexual men and transgender people on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
- Gay or bisexual men and transgender people who frequented or worked in saunas, bathhouses, sex clubs, tours or sex parties where they had sex anonymously or with multiple partners.
- Gay or bisexual men and transgender people diagnosed with gonorrhea or early syphilis in the last 12 months.
People seeking a vaccine must register through Long Beach’s pre-registration system to get on a waiting list. The city will contact those who qualify when it is their turn to receive the first in a series of two-dose vaccines, the health ministry said. The pre-registration system can be found on the city’s website at longbeach.gov/monkeypox.
“Most of the cases reported locally and nationally have been associated with skin-to-skin contact,” the health ministry said. “The risk of exposure may increase during any type of sexual intercourse or intimate contact, including cuddling or kissing, with multiple people or anonymous people. Attending places or events such as clubs, saunas, public baths, sex parties and circuits, where there is skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact with many people, may also increase the risk.
In Los Angeles County, monkeypox appears to be spreading on a larger scale – although officials have stressed the risk of contracting the virus remains low.
There were 162 confirmed cases of monkeypox in LA County as of July 25, according to the Department of Public Health. That agency administered about 5,400 doses of vaccine across the county, officials reported last week. The county received about 9,800 new doses of the vaccine two weeks ago and was planning another 7,000 last week.
Monkeypox is a member of the same family of viruses as smallpox, but it is rarely fatal. Symptoms are similar to those of smallpox, but milder. They usually include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. A rash that may look like pimples or blisters sometimes appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body.
The virus spreads through intimate skin-to-skin contact and can also be transmitted via materials – such as bedding or towels – that are contaminated with the virus. The monkeypox virus can also spread from animals to humans.
Although anyone can be infected with monkeypox, most cases identified in the United States have been in people who identify as gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, according to the LA County DPH. .
The Long Beach Health Department also announced ongoing partnerships with multiple healthcare providers — including AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Long Beach Comprehensive Health Center, St. Mary’s CARE Clinic, and the LGBTQ Center — on monitor monkeypox in the city and provide resources for communities most at risk.
“We are taking proactive steps to make the monkeypox vaccine more accessible to those most at risk in our community,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in the news release. “Partnering with these proven and trusted LGBTQ+ serving organizations will also help ensure those in need are vaccinated and protected as quickly as possible.”
The health department encourages anyone with symptoms of monkeypox to contact a medical professional and self-isolate. Resources are available on the city’s website at longbeach.gov/monkeypox.
City News Service contributed to this report.