LOS ANGELES (KABC) — The nation’s first case of a health care worker contracting monkeypox after being exposed on the job was reported in Los Angeles County earlier this week.
“We have identified a health care worker with monkeypox who appears to have been exposed to the virus at their worksite,” said Dr. Rita Singhal, chief medical officer for the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Singhal said the local case is one of eight known worldwide involving a health care employee exposed at work. She said the county has consulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the case.
“Given that the risk for monkeypox for health care workers remains very low, we will continue to message on current infection-prevention control recommendations and in particular the use of appropriate PPE,” Singhal said.
On Monday, local health officials announced a Los Angeles County resident with a compromised immune system died from monkeypox. It’s believed to be the first U.S. fatality from the disease.
Monkeypox is spread through close skin-to-skin contact and prolonged exposure to respiratory droplets. It can cause a rash, fever, body aches and chills. Relatively few people require hospitalizations and only a handful of deaths worldwide have been directly linked to the disease.
The CDC recommends the monkeypox vaccine for people who are a close contact of someone who has disease; people who know a sexual partner was diagnosed in the past two weeks; and gay or bisexual men who had multiple sexual partners in the last two weeks in an area with known virus spread. Shots are also recommended for health care workers at high risk of exposure.
As of this week, Singhal reported about 1,950 local cases. California leads the nation with nearly 4,400 cases.
In July, white men had the highest percentage of cases. But there’s now more cases among the Latino and Black populations.
Singhal said Latino residents now account for the largest proportion of monkepox cases in L.A. County.
When accounting for population size, the new data also shows that African American residents have the highest rates of infection at 26 cases per 100,000.
According to the CDC, the Latino and Black populations have disproportionately not received a vaccine against monkeypox.
“The percentages of vaccines administered to Latinos or Hispanic men and non-Hispanic Black men are disproportionately lower than we are seeing represented in cases,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.
The White House Monkeypox Response Team says given the success of mobile vaccine clinics at large-scale LGBTQ+ events, the strategy now is to work with local health departments on continued outreach.
White House officials say they will allocate more vaccines to jurisdictions with the most at-risk communities.
Eligibility has been expanded to include pretty much anyone who is at risk of exposure. But despite more availability of vaccines, officials say the big challenge now is to get more people to come back for their second doses.
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