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Local health officials address monkeypox concerns

Posted at 4:17 PM, Aug 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-16 22:26:38-04

With monkeypox cases now identified in both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, there has been speculation about the infection and its risk to the general public.

San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein says she does not expect the number of local cases to spike.
So far, one confirmed case has been identified in a county resident and says she the male who contracted the virus likely became infected outside of San Luis Obispo County.

"We have done an investigation as to who the contacts are, and we have provided preventative vaccinations for them," Dr. Borenstein said.

However, she admits that due to limited supply, a monkeypox vaccine will not be offered to everyone.

"We are very judiciously making it available to those that have had direct contact with a known case," she added.

Dr. Borenstein says early symptoms of the infection often mirror those of common colds or the flu, with one glaring exception.

"When the telltale rash comes along, that is when it may be monkeypox and health care should be sought at that point," Dr. Borenstein said.

In the weeks since monkeypox cases started appearing across the country, studies show nearly 1 in 5 Americans are worried they will contract the virus, with many of them fearing an airborne spread of the infection, too.

But locals we spoke with say it will take a lot more than one monkeypox case to heighten their concerns.

"If we start hearing about our neighbors being quarantined, you see people with rashes going in-and-out of Trader Joe's, then we will start being elevated," said Arroyo Grande resident Jim Dowdall.

"Well, if it starts to be an epidemic. It doesn't seem to be that way now," added Nipomo resident Bing Kunzig.

Dr. Borenstein also shared some reassurance for those who may be worried about Monkeypox's spread and symptoms.

"While it may be painful, while it may cause a few weeks of disruption in one's life, we are not seeing hospitalizations or fatalities in the same way we have seen for many other diseases," she stated. "The general public should not be overly concerned."

Still, Dr. Borenstein advises the community to take precautions and seek medical attention when needed.

Tuesday morning, Santa Barbara County public health officials provided the County Board of Supervisors an update on the monkeypox outbreak there. There will now be a weekly update on the virus at those meetings.