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Photo by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Austin officials expect more doses of the monkeypox vaccine after U.S. declares a health emergency

Monday, August 8, 2022 by Andrew Weber, KUT

Austin health officials say they expect more monkeypox vaccine doses to head to Central Texas after the Biden administration’s declaration of a public health emergency Thursday.

Medical Director Desmar Walkes said Austin Public Health anticipates the extra doses next month. It’s unclear how many doses the area will get, though, so public health officials are urging Austinites to practice safe hygiene.

In a town hall with Central Health on Friday, Austin Public Health said it has 1,500 doses of the vaccine and that it’s following federal guidelines that focus on inoculating people who’ve had high-risk contact with someone who’s tested positive.

Walkes said the virus is primarily affecting gay and bisexual men, but warned against stigmatizing that population. She emphasized anyone can get the virus.

“Anybody in the community,” she said, “regardless of whether they’re from the community that’s being impacted now or from the general population elsewhere – they are all subject or can possibly get or be exposed to monkeypox.”

Along with headache, fever and muscle aches, the virus causes a rash of lesions that look similar to pimples. It’s largely spread through prolonged skin-to-skin contact. APH suggests anyone attending large-scale events avoid skin-to-skin contact and try to social distance around strangers.

Dr. Michael Stefanowicz, a physician at CommUnityCare, told the town hall 98 percent of the cases in Central Texas are among gay and bisexual men. Nine people have tested positive in the Austin area and 46 cases are presumed positive. Nearly 320 people are being monitored for monkeypox symptoms or are awaiting test results.

Photo caption: A colorized image of the monkeypox virus captured through a transmission electron micrograph.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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