SAN DIEGO — San Diego County leaders and public health experts hosted a virtual town hall Thursday for the monkeypox virus.

Several doctors and experts were part of the panel who also took questions from the public.

“It is up to us to come together and create safety nets within our community,” said Mikie Lochner, the San Diego HIV Planning Group chair.

During the virtual town hall, doctors educated the public on the virus. They said monkeypox is a rare disease that’s harder to transmit than COVID-19. Doctors said the virus appears as a rash that usually starts with bumps on the face but can start on the genitals.

Health experts said the virus spreads through prolonged direct skin-to-skin contact through large respiratory droplets and by sharing contaminated bedding or towels, as opposed to COVID-19 that can also be spread through air droplets.

If a person has been exposed it’s recommended to get vaccinated within 14 days, isolate and test, according to health officials. Doctors said if a person becomes infected with monkeypox to isolate, stay home and monitor symptoms and get treated with an antiviral.

Health experts have said some at-risk activities include, sex, kissing, hugging or cuddling without clothes and sharing sex toys. Doctors say the best way to avoid getting monkeypox is to reduce the number of sex partners, talk with your partner, limit skin to skin contact and know the signs and symptoms.

The virus has been found in semen, but doctors have said there is no evidence yet that the virus is sexually transmitted.

Currently, San Diego County has 121 cases as of Thursday, that’s an increase of 17 cases from Wednesday.
During the town hall, the county said the cases have been all male, between 21 to 62 years old, although the virus can infect anyone.

“The rash itself is contagious, but sometimes individuals may not know that they’ve come into contact with that rash. It’s really important in prevention efforts to speak with your partner to look at your partner and discuss whether they had a rash or recent illness,” said Dr. Ankita Kadakia, the San Diego County deputy public health officer.