While COVID spreads, monkeypox declared a global health emergency

Oregon Health Authority speaks on current outbreaks within state

July 25, 2022 — Two and a half years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Oregon hospitals are stretched thin due to patients treated for the coronavirus and other diseases, as well as impacts to the workforce, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon State Health Officer and State Epidemiologist said in a press conference on July 20.

During the week of July 17, Oregon reported a 13.9% test positivity rate, although it may not capture the “full picture,” because of the volume of unreported at-home tests and individuals with COVID-19 who are not testing, Sidelinger said.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 21 counties across Oregon, including Lane County, have indicated high levels of transmission. Because of this risk, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Department of Education have encouraged schools to use “layered mitigation strategies” in summer education settings.

“[Wearing a mask] is even more important in high levels,” Sidelinger said. “It is extremely important for anyone at higher risk for complications or anyone who lives with someone who’s in those higher levels, because they’re the folks who are more likely to have complications and need to be hospitalized.”

Masks are required in healthcare settings, and are encouraged in indoor settings.

For individuals who are not yet vaccinated, a fourth vaccine, Novavax, has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The CDC endorsed the FDA’s authorization on July 19, and the Western State Scientific Safety Review Workgroup recommended the vaccine for use in Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada.

Novavax is a two-dose vaccine that does not use mRNA technology like Moderna or Pfizer and is not a vector vaccine like Johnson & Johnson.

“Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine uses what’s known as ‘protein technology,’ where only parts of a virus are used to stimulate the human immune system,” Sidelinger said. “This has been used widely for decades and around the world in vaccines for shingles, hepatitis B and the flu.”

On July 23, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a global health emergency. WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus overruled a panel of advisors to declare the spread a “public health emergency of international concern,” The New York Times reported. This designation is currently only used for COVID-19 and polio.

As of July 25, Oregon has reported 36 confirmed or presumed cases of monkeypox, with 2,891 cases throughout the United States. Cases have originated from four counties: Lane, Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas.

Monkeypox is primarily spread through close skin-to-skin contact.

“I want to assure most Oregonians that they are not at risk for getting an hMPXV [Human Monkeypox Virus] infection,” Sidelinger said. “This is not spread nearly as easily as COVID-19. It does require skin-to-skin contact while someone is sick, so it is not spread from people without symptoms, it is not spread from a casual passing by with someone on the bus or on the sidewalk or in a shared airspace.”

Sidelinger also said that there could be some transmission in prolonged face-to-face contact and droplets.

Sidelinger said that so far, all of the monkeypox cases in Oregon have been in men. People with multiple partners, primarily ones they don’t know, are at the highest risk of transmission, especially in areas of higher rates of spread.

According to the CDC, symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, chills, exhaustion and “​​a rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus.” Monkeypox typically lasts for two to four weeks.

Vaccines for monkeypox are in “extremely limited supply,” Sidelinger said, but the manufacturer is bringing more into the country, which will be distributed to states based on the burden of disease.

For more information, visit www.healthoregon.org/coronavirus and www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/diseasesconditions/diseasesaz/pages/orthopoxviruses.aspx.