King County officially declared the local monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency Friday afternoon as infections continue to rise in Seattle and other parts of the state.
“We are fortunate to have one of the best public health organizations in the nation here in King County, and today’s action ensures they will have all the tools they need to meet the monkeypox challenge,” King said. County Executive Dow Constantine in a ruling. “The health of our community is paramount, and responding quickly and nimblely to monkeypox will help keep more of us safe.”
The local emergency proclamation will give public health — Seattle and King County more flexibility in adopting and contracting protocols, the statement said. For example, King County employees can authorize overtime and make temporary staff appointments to respond to the emergency.
The proclamation went into effect immediately in support of efforts to contain the virus, which can cause skin rashes, fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and fatigue. After exposure to the virus, it can take up to three weeks for symptoms to start.
As of Friday, Washington had counted 333 monkeypox infections, 275 of which were confirmed in King County, according to the Department of Health. Two weeks ago, the state had confirmed 166 cases.
Public health officials also registered 21 cases in Pierce County, seven in Snohomish County, five in Spokane County, five in Clark County and four in Yakima County, DOH said.
Most cases have been confirmed in men who had sexual or close intimate contact with other men, although anyone can contract the virus through skin-to-skin (or sometimes prolonged personal) contact, state health officials said.
“It is an important time for public health to have the flexibility to respond and reach the communities most affected, including ensuring equal access to vaccines,” said Dennis Worsham, interim public health director. in the province, in the statement.
Monkeypox vaccines are particularly scarce in the region, and while Constantine’s proclamation won’t bring more doses to the state anytime soon, it will help public health teams deliver vaccines more quickly when larger quantities become available, the executive’s office said.
In late July, King County health officials said they had only about 6% of the vaccine supply needed to give two-dose injections to those considered at high or increased risk for the disease. The state is pursuing a “first-dose prioritization” strategy, meaning recipients will initially receive only one injection of the two-dose vaccine in an effort to expand its supply to as many high-risk people as possible.
Currently, those most at risk and eligible for a monkeypox vaccine in King County are anyone who has had sexual or close, intimate contact with someone who has tested positive for monkeypox. Men who have sex with men and have had more than 10 sex partners in the past three months; a history of early syphilis or gonorrhea in the past year; or have visited a bathhouse or other public sex venue in the past three months, among other criteria, are also eligible for a vaccine.
“Removing procedural barriers will help us be as effective as possible as we anticipate a continued busy decline for public health, healthcare providers and community partners, including the potential rollout of new COVID-19 boosters, flu shots and the prevention of more cases of MPV in our community,” Worsham said, using the term some agencies prefer for the virus.
San Francisco and New York City became the first cities in the country to declare a health emergency over the outbreak in late July, although the federal government made a similar announcement in early August in hopes of getting funding and other resources to treat and vaccinate those who are infected. The World Health Organization also declared a global emergency in July.
If you live in King County and qualify for a vaccine, public health officials recommend contacting your health care provider or Public Health – Seattle & King County at 800-756-5437.
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