Judge Hidalgo, Mayor Turner call growing number of monkeypox cases ‘public health emergency’ for Houston area, ask for more vaccinations

Here's what we know

HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner held a joint news conference Monday to discuss the growing number of monkeypox cases across the Houston area.

Officials with the Houston Health Department and Harris County Public Health also joined the briefing to discuss the latest regarding the cases of monkeypox in Harris County and Houston, present awareness and preparedness plans, and provide testing options available for the public.

Turner said the city and county will continue to strategize to mitigate the spread of monkeypox and get ahead of the disease. He said they are taking these cases extremely seriously and said this is a public health emergency.

The mayor said the Houston Health Department has reported 47 monkeypox cases so far, including one hospitalization for pain. He said the case count will increase based on other cities.

So far, the health department has provided at least 135 vaccines to those who are at high risk since the vaccine arrived in Houston.

Turner said although cases are rising, the community threat level is low. He also added that now is the time to get ahead of the disease and has asked the CDC and White House to send more vaccines to Houston and Harris County.

“If you wait too long, you will be chasing after the pandemic,” Turner said.

Just like Houston, Hidalgo said the community risk level for monkeypox cases is low in Harris County. So far, there are 10 cases of monkeypox in Harris County, all men from the ages of 20 to 28 years old.

Hidalgo said men who have sex with other men are at higher risk of contracting monkeypox. She has also asked the federal government to provide more vaccines for the Houston area.

The Texas Department of State Health Services announced Monday that it has received a shipment of 14,780 doses of the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine.

DSHS said it has sent 5,120 doses to Dallas County Health and Human Services after the county reportedly has the largest number of confirmed monkeypox cases in Texas.

The remainder of the state doses will be provided to local health departments and DSHS regional offices to vaccinate people with a documented or presumed exposure to the monkeypox virus, according to a release.

Houston and Harris County have received a separate shipment of approximately 5,000 doses from the SNS.

Health departments can request vaccines through the DSHS Vaccine Allocation and Ordering System.

What are the current monkeypox vaccination guidelines?

CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and people who are at higher risk of being exposed to monkeypox, including:

  • People who public health officials have identified as a contact of someone with monkeypox
  • People who may have been exposed to monkeypox, such as:
  • People who are aware that one of their sexual partners in the past 2 weeks has been diagnosed with monkeypox
  • People who had multiple sexual partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with known monkeypox
  • People whose jobs may expose them to orthopoxviruses, such as:
  • Laboratory workers who perform testing for orthopoxviruses
  • Laboratory workers who handle cultures or animals with orthopoxviruses
  • Some designated healthcare or public health workers

What is the vaccination strategy?

The vaccines will be prioritized for individuals who are at risk of monkeypox, prioritize vaccines for areas with the highest numbers of cases, and provide guidance to state, territorial, tribal, and local health officials to aid their planning and response efforts.

What is HCPH’s role in the vaccination and prevention strategy against monkeypox?

HCPH is working with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and local partners to monitor the monkeypox situation closely, which includes any updates about federal shipments of the monkeypox vaccine or testing enhancements that come to Harris County.

HCPH remains on standby for notifications to monitor people who are exposed to the virus or reports of suspected cases. We ask that residents and partners alike remain vigilant and help share monkeypox information moving forward.

Watch the full news conference below:

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