Tuesday, August 9, 2022

City of Austin, Travis County Declare Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency


Declarations bring awareness to disease, allow for additional resources 

The City of Austin and Travis County declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Tuesday as the number of cases in Austin-Travis County continues to rise. Immediate action must be taken to curb the spread of the disease in our community. 

The declarations will be found here: 

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it was declaring the spread of monkeypox as a public health emergency. Austin and Travis County join Dallas County in the list of Texas jurisdictions to declare monkeypox a health emergency.  

“We have the opportunity to stop the spread of monkeypox in our community. While we await more vaccines from the state, we’re asking the community to do what they know works,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “Limiting close contact with those you don’t know, covering as much of your skin as possible when going to events and wearing well-fitting masks will help to protect yourself from this disease.” 

Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) allocated 3,000 JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine doses to Austin Public Health (APH). As the JYNNEOS vaccine requires two courses, the limited supply provides enough vaccine for only 1,500 people.  

When vaccine is provided by the state, it is required to follow the criteria of the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As required, APH is evaluating those who are high-risk close contacts to monkeypox cases for vaccination eligibility.  

Only those who had a sexual partner in the past 14 days who was diagnosed with monkeypox or those who had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days in a jurisdiction with known monkeypox are currently eligible to receive the vaccine. 

“Monkeypox is a serious disease that is causing physical and mental anguish for patients. Not only does someone experience pain, they have to deal with all the hardships that come with isolating for as many as 28 days,” said Austin Public Health Director Adrienne Sturrup. “We can beat this disease by following simple precautions that reduce the spread and keep each other safe.”

You can protect yourself from monkeypox by: 

  • Being fully clothed and avoiding skin-to-skin contact with strangers.  
  • Limiting close and or/intimate contact to people you know.  
    • Close contact includes sharing items like drinks and blankets. 
  • Wearing well-fitting masks in close quarters when social distancing isn’t possible to reduce sharing mouth/nasal fluids for prolonged periods. 
  • Being aware of monkeypox symptoms. Along with rash, symptoms include fever, headache and muscle aches, chills, and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Washing your hands and using hand sanitation often.  
  • Staying home if you feel sick or experience any symptoms

“My hope today is that this declaration will drive more state and federal resources to Austin and Travis County,” said Travis County Judge Andy Brown. “We also want the public to be aware of the symptoms and risks associated with monkeypox. With colleges, universities, and schools coming back, and festival season beginning, it is imperative for everyone to do their part to protect themselves and their loved ones.” 

Anyone who believes they are a close contact with someone who has tested positive for monkeypox should reach out to their health care provider. Those without access to health care may call APH at 512-972-5560 for information. 

“We can slow the spread of monkeypox by focusing on our behaviors. Lessons learned from our recent history teach us that we are safer when we maintain good hygiene, like washing hands, and avoiding multiple (especially intimate) physical interactions,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “We're fortunate that a vaccine already exists and we urgently need more of it.” 

As of Tuesday, August 9, there are nine confirmed cases and 59 presumptive cases of monkeypox in Austin-Travis County. These numbers are updated weekly online