SF health officials issue advisory after uptick in mpox cases

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday August 30, 2023
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The San Francisco Department of Public Health had an informational booth at the 2022 Up Your Alley street fair. Photo: Gooch
The San Francisco Department of Public Health had an informational booth at the 2022 Up Your Alley street fair. Photo: Gooch

The San Francisco Department of Public Health issued a health advisory about mpox August 30 after seeing an uptick in cases among residents. It was prompted by reports of seven cases of the disease among city residents in the past five weeks.

"This is an increase from an average of one case per month from January to June 2023," noted local health officials.

The news comes as the city's LGBTQ community is gearing up for the annual Folsom Street Fair Sunday, September 24. Thousands of attendees are expected at this year's fetish event and related parties held over that weekend of the month.

Federal officials warned in the spring ahead of the annual LGBTQ celebrations held during Pride Month in June and throughout the summer about a potential resurgence of the virus, as the Bay Area Reporter reported at the time. As the B.A.R. reported in June, Los Angeles public health officials reported six new cases in a week after Pride festivities in LA and the LGBTQ enclave of West Hollywood in the first two weeks of that month.

San Francisco's health department reports that there have been 855 total mpox cases in the city since the outbreak began in spring of 2022. It has mostly affected gay and bisexual men and their sexual partners.

According to the latest case counts for the city, there were two reported mpox cases August 16. One mpox case was reported on August 15, 10, 6, 1, and July 28.

The health department encouraged people to get vaccinated if they have not already done so.

"The Jynneos vaccine is widely available across San Francisco. Health systems, community clinics such as the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's Strut clinic, and SFDPH-affiliated sites, including our SF City Clinic, continue to offer vaccines, tests and other mpox resources," DPH stated. "The mpox vaccine decreases the risk of mpox illness and if someone does get mpox, may reduce illness severity and risk of hospitalization."

The AIDS foundation continues to promote mpox vaccination via its Douchie mascot and has a dedicated website with information about how to get vaxxed. As it noted in an August 4 newsletter, "Douchie's here to remind you to get vaccinated for mpox! The vaccine is safe and effective, with two doses providing the best protection."

While anyone who wants protection from mpox infection may seek a vaccine, DPH strongly recommends and encourages two-dose vaccination for all people living with HIV, anyone taking or eligible to take HIV PrEP, and all men, trans people, and nonbinary people who have sex with men, trans people, or nonbinary people. These groups are likely to be among those most affected if mpox cases were to increase again in San Francisco, the department noted.

The health advisory also makes six recommendations of San Francisco clinicians: maintaining awareness of what lesions look like, strongly recommending and administering the vaccine, and counseling patients on risk reduction by using condoms and reducing one's total number of different sexual partners.

Other recommendations include talking about mpox risk assessment and vaccination status in all sexual health visits for men, trans, and nonbinary people; providing mpox vaccine as part of a comprehensive package that includes discussion of PrEP, and other HIV and sexually transmitted infection-related issues; and referring those who've contracted the mpox virus to take part in the STOMP Trial, which is "a national randomized controlled trial on the efficacy and safety of tecovirimat (TPOXX)."

"Persons with severe disease will be prescribed TPOXX and persons with mild to moderate disease will be randomized to either TPOXX or placebo," the advisory states. TPOXX can be prescribed through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two doses of the Jynneos vaccine, given about a month apart, provide the best protection against mpox, health officials note. Over 50,000 doses of the mpox vaccine were distributed last year in San Francisco, DPH stated, covering 42% of all people living with HIV in the city and 65% of people who had received PrEP at San Francisco City Clinic prior to June 2022.

For information on the mpox vaccine, click here.

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