Read our original article, with frequently asked questions about monkeypox, below.

Update as of September 6

Texas currently has 1,730 confirmed cases of monkeypox, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Harris County contributes 621 instances of that number, with 481 from the City of Houston alone. 

The number of confirmed cases is steadily rising, but Harris County and other local entities are working to mitigate the disease.  Harris County has administered 3,167 doses of the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine, with 2,779 residents receiving their first and 388 with their second doses. 

Over the three-day weekend, Galveston County offered free monkeypox vaccines to those 18 and older in celebration of Pride Galveston, alongside HIV and syphilis testing, which comes after President Joe Biden requested that health departments  host outreach events to help control the spread. 

The case of the patient who tested presumptive positive for monkeypox and died last week is under investigation by the CDC and the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. 

Those at high risk for monkeypox are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. 

To schedule an appointment, call 832-393-4220 or visit the Houston Health Department‘s website.

Update as of August 31

Monkeypox cases in the Greater Houston area continue to rise. Harris County reported 533 confirmed cases of 1,426 cases in the entire state. The number includes the 427 cases reported by the Houston Health Department. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Houston region has reported 596 monkeypox cases. 

A Harris County resident who tested presumptive positive for monkeypox died Sunday at a local hospital. An autopsy is being performed to determine the cause of death, as the patient had multiple severe illnesses. Results will be available in a few weeks. Local health officials are working alongside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DSHS to conclude if monkeypox was the cause of death. 

Of those totals mentioned above, there are nine confirmed cases of children with monkeypox in the state, which has brought on a new cause for concern for parents of school-age children. Fort Bend ISD released a statement that confirmed a positive case of monkeypox at Ridge Point High School. The district is currently working with the county health department. In a statement, the district wrote, “cleaning and disinfecting continues at all FBISD campuses for the prevention of any infectious disease in all schools and facilities … (using) disinfectants proven effective by the Environmental Protection Agency against monkeypox.”

IDEA Public Schools also confirmed a case of monkeypox at their Hardy campus, located on Little York Road. Officials said the school facilities staff deep cleaned learning spaces, wiped down classrooms and frequently touched surfaces, and beefed up cleaning supplies for consistent disinfection.

The eligibility for the vaccine hasn’t changed. As of August 30, Harris County has successfully performed 2,722 vaccinations, with 2,611 residents receiving their first dose and 111 receiving their second. 

For more information, call 832-393-4220 or visit the Houston Health Department‘s website.

 

Update as of August 24

On Tuesday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a press conference that the eligibility for the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine has expanded. 

According to Hidalgo, gay men are now eligible for the monkeypox vaccine through the Harris County Public Health Department. The vaccine was previously available to those who were at high risk for the virus, have come into contact with someone with monkeypox, have attended events where there was a high risk of exposure, or have certain sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest case count reports that Texas has 1,340 cases of the disease. Of those cases, Harris County’s case count reached 455, a 48 percent increase from last week. The City of Houston had a similar jump, reporting 376 cases this week.

Additionally, Hidalgo said that the Harris County child who tested presumptively positive for monkeypox did not in fact have the virus and that the test result was likely a false positive, according to the CDC. The case was an alleged rarity because it occurred in a child; although thankfully it is now regarded as a false positive, such misdiagnoses occur just 4 percent of the time.

After the county received a new vaccine shipment last week, 2,151 first doses of the vaccine had been administered as of Monday.

For more information, call 832-393-4220 or visit the Houston Health Department‘s website.

 

 

Update as of Tuesday, August 16

As of Sunday, August 14, Harris County Public Health’s case count had hit 307, with 265 in the City of Houston. Judge Lina Hidalgo announced on Tuesday, August 16,  that a child under 2 years old has tested presumptive positive for monkeypox in Harris County. 

To mitigate the disease and slow the spread, the City of Houston and Harris County have expanded eligibility for the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine. According to a news release, the Houston Health Department is switching to intradermal vaccinations—injections just beneath the skin—and the criteria for vaccine eligibility has expanded to the estimated 26,000 residents living with HIV in both Houston and Harris County. Additionally, children 6 months old and older are eligible. 

The revised administration method for the vaccine comes as new guidance was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas Department of State Health Services. 

Hidalgo also announced that the county is slated to receive about 9,000 doses instead of the higher amount that was initially promised to the county. 

Public health officials have said that the threat of monkeypox to the city’s general public remains low. According to the most recently released data, the Houston Health Department has fully vaccinated 2,942 people for monkeypox, and 800 more have received their first dose of the vaccine through scheduled appointments. 

For more information, call 832-393-4220 or visit the Houston Health Department‘s website.

 

Update as of Wednesday, August 10

On August 4, the Biden administration declared the ongoing spread of monkeypox across the nation a public health emergency. In response, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has bolstered the effort to combat monkeypox, adding more urgency to the availability of vaccines. 

According to the HHS, the declaration aligns directly with the “Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) work to explore new strategies that could help get vaccines to affected communities across the country, including using a new dose-sparing approach that could increase the number of doses available, up to five-fold.”

In Texas, the number of cases reported has risen to 702 across the entire state, with some cities issuing emergency orders. Harris County Public Health reported the area’s case count at 223, as of Tuesday, August 9. Houston has yet to issue a similar emergency order, in hopes that the allocated 17,000 doses (see last week’s update) arrive soon. 

Houston hopes to mitigate the effects of the vaccine shortage with a new plan for vaccinating those who are at high risk for exposure to the disease. By stretching the supply of the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine, health authorities can use what was formerly counted as one dose to treat five patients. 

For more information, call 832-393-4220 or visit the Houston Health Department’s website.

 

Update as of 10:00 a.m., August 3

Last Thursday, July 28, the Houston Health Department placed a temporary pause on monkeypox vaccine appointments, as the department had a limited supply of the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine. 

Judge Lina Hidalgo and Mayor Sylvester Turner reached out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requesting more vaccines, and the Houston Health Department is slated to receive 17,000 more doses, but they have yet to become available to the public. 

“Those 17,000 vaccines that were allocated after last week’s request, they’ve not arrived yet,” Hidalgo said. “And when they do, they’re not enough. Harris County needs a substantial increase in the number of monkeypox vaccines, and we need those vaccines now.”

As of today, Houston currently has 125 confirmed monkeypox cases and roughly 250 vaccines left, according to a press conference held Tuesday. The number of cases in Houston has jumped exponentially since last week, with only 50 cases reported at the end of July. 

In a broader scope, in the past week monkeypox cases in Texas have similarly jumped, going from 183 confirmed cases to 338. According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, 72 percent of individuals infected with monkeypox are between the ages of 18 and 39. Of those cases reported, only six of them have affected women. 

For more information, call 832-393-4220 or visit the Houston Health Department’s website.

 

Update as of July 26

On Saturday, July 23, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency over the monkeypox outbreak. The declaration marks the health organization’s highest level of alert.

“Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern, for the moment this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a media briefing.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo stood alongside Mayor Sylvester Turner Monday for a press conference to discuss the growing number of cases in Houston, which currently sits at 47, with one patient hospitalized for pain. 

The State of Texas received roughly 15,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine, with 5,024 doses allocated to the Houston Health Department. KPRC reported that the health department has supplied “at least 135 vaccines to those who are at high risk” since the vaccines arrived. 

According to both Hidalgo and Turner, the threat level of monkeypox remains low, and the plan is to stay vigilant against the disease. 

 

Note: The introductory advice in this article was published on July 21, 2022.

The World Health Organization reported the first case of monkeypox in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it is described as a “disease of global health importance.” It was first discovered in the United States in 2003, and the outbreak was linked to pet prairie dogs who were housed with Gambian pouched rats and dormice that were shipped to America via Ghana, leading to more than 70 cases in the US.

The novel disease has since resurfaced, with the first case reported in Massachusetts on May 18. Across the nation, there have been 1,972 reported cases, with 110 reported so far in Texas, according to the Department of State Health Services. KHOU confirmed the first case of monkeypox in a woman on Wednesday. In the Greater Houston area, there have been 34 disclosed reports of the disease. But Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for the city of Houston, says the local numbers aren’t a true reflection of the disease’s spread. 

As cases near 2,000 in the US, learn more about monkeypox and how to fight against it. 

What is monkeypox? 

Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus, which is transmitted to humans from animals. Symptoms associated with the disease parallel those of smallpox patients, but according to the WHO, the severity of monkeypox is much less. 

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The CDC has described symptoms of monkeypox as fever, headache, muscle and back aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. One of the more prominent symptoms is a rash that appears to be pimples or blisters that can appear on the face, inside the mouth, or on the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus. 

How does monkeypox spread?

Although monkeypox can spread in multiple ways, it has spread largely through direct contact with the skin or saliva of someone infected with the disease, specifically by contact with the rash or with scabs. Face-to-face contact by respiratory droplets can also transmit the disease. It hasn’t been proven that monkeypox can spread through sexual contact, but the DSHS has found that most of the Texas cases have involved male patients who’ve had sexual contact with other men. 

Prevention and treatment 

Currently, there’s no treatment for the monkeypox infection. The disease is similar to smallpox, so vaccines can mitigate the disease. But the best way to combat the virus is through prevention. The CDC recommends avoiding skin-to-skin contact with those who  have been infected, washing your hands with soap and water, and using hand sanitizer. 

How to fight back against monkeypox 

Wearing masks may have seemed a thing of the past, but monkeypox poses a true threat to public health and will require many residents to resume wearing them again. 

DSHS reports that there are 20,000 doses of vaccine available to local health departments, but the doses are only available at each local department’s request. For Texas residents at this time, the vaccine is made available only to those who have been exposed to the disease. 

 

 

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