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Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

Austin-Travis County officials issue emergency order in response to monkeypox outbreak

Tuesday, August 9, 2022 by Seema Mathur, KUT

Local leaders issued an emergency order Tuesday in response to the monkeypox outbreak in Austin-Travis County.

Since the first case in Travis County was reported on June 23, the number of monkeypox infections has risen to 68, including nine women and two children. There are currently 702 cases in Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At a press conference at City Hall, Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said the primary reason for declaring the emergency is because of the limited supply of vaccines. Austin Public Health has only 3,154 doses; they are being given to people who have symptoms or are in high-risk groups.

“As we are running out of the vaccine and medications,” Walkes said, “we want to engage our community and ask them to stem the tide of the spread of the disease and allow us the time to refuel and get what we need to treat people and vaccinate people who are exposed to the virus.”

Local health officials said there are some 56,000 vaccines available nationally, and the city of Austin is trying getting more, especially in light of schools opening next week and upcoming festivals, which can both be sources of spread.

“With limited supply of vaccine resources, we are calling on our state and federal partners to help us get more vaccines in Travis County,” Travis County Judge Andy Brown said. “We need the federal government to help increase the number of vaccine available, and we need the Texas state government to speed up the process when we request more vaccines locally.”

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said another reason for the order is to be able to access emergency funds.

Symptoms of monkeypox include rash, skin lesions, fever, chills and body aches. The virus can spread to anyone through close – often skin-to-skin – contact, including direct contact with a monkeypox rash, scabs or body fluids, and by touching objects, fabrics and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox. It can spread during intimate contact, including sex, hugging, massage and kissing. A pregnant person can also spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.

Health officials advise the community to take precautions and see a doctor immediately if they have symptoms. People who are infected should isolate.

Photo caption: Dr. Desmar Walkes said Austin-Travis County is issuing an emergency order in response to the monkeypox virus primarily because of the limited supply of vaccines.

Editor’s Note: Andy Brown is on the board of the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, the parent nonprofit of the Austin Monitor.

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

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