California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declared a state of emergency in response to the monkeypox virus, which has thus far mostly affected men who have sex with men.
In a statement on Monday, Newsom said the state of California will be working closely with the federal government to make monkeypox vaccines more readily available while also combatting any stigma the LGBTQ community might face.
“We’ll continue to work with the federal government to secure more vaccines, raise awareness about reducing risk, and stand with the LGBTQ community fighting stigmatization,” Newsom said.
According to the Associated Press, roughly 800 cases have been reported in the Golden State, spreading mostly through skin-to-skin contact among men who have sex with men. The virus can also spread through the sharing of bedding, towels, and clothing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also noted that the virus can spread on surfaces used by individuals with monkeypox. Per the CDC website:
Monkeypox spreads in a few ways.
- Monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:
- Direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox.
- Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
- Contact with respiratory secretions.
- This direct contact can happen during intimate contact, including:
- Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) of a person with monkeypox.
- Hugging, massage, and kissing.
- Prolonged face-to-face contact.
- Touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys.
- A pregnant person can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.
It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal.
Michelle Gibbons, executive director of the County Health Executives Association of California, said stigma toward individuals infected with monkeypox will only hurt the public health response, emphasizing that anyone can be infected with the virus.
“Public health officials are clear: stigma is unacceptable and counterproductive in public health response,” she said in a statement. “The fact is that monkeypox is primarily spread by skin to skin contact and sharing objects like bedding or towels, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.”
California’s declaration comes after New York state and San Francisco made their own state of emergency declarations to combat the monkeypox virus.