This story was updated at 12:10 p.m. Aug. 11, 2022, to clarify who is eligible for the monkeypox vaccine.
Montgomery County health officials said Wednesday it’s likely that monkeypox cases have reached the county — but added that state officials haven’t provided confirmation because of health privacy concerns.
There are 215 cases of monkeypox throughout Maryland, according to Kimberly Townsend — a county Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) employee tasked with leading the county’s response to monkeypox.
Monkeypox is a disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus and can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, DHHS officials say. Sean O’Donnell, the county’s public health emergency preparedness manager, has said that the virus also can spread if people share bath towels, clothes or similar items. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle ache, swollen lymph nodes and a rash.
During a news briefing, Townsend said county health officials have started administering monkeypox vaccine at the Dennis Avenue Health Center in Silver Spring for those who they believe have been exposed to the virus. County health officials are encouraging those who have had sex in the last 14 days with someone diagnosed with monkeypox, or have had sex with multiple people in the last 14 days in “an area with known [cases]” to inquire about getting the vaccine, as those are some criteria of eligibility.
There are 300 total doses of vaccine that have been scheduled for administration through the end of this week, Townsend said. It is a two-dose vaccine that requires a four-week waiting period between doses, she told reporters.
James Bridgers, the county’s acting health officer, and Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard said it’s likely that there have been monkeypox cases in the county, given its large population and proximity to Washington, D.C., which has reported cases.
“We don’t have a raw number [of cases],” Bridgers said. “And principally, that’s due to protected health information [and] HIPAA compliance.”
Townsend said DHHS is in constant communication with the state Department of Health and federal partners in order to expand vaccine availability. County health officials are currently offering vaccines to those who are at highest risk of exposure and severe symptoms.
County Executive Marc Elrich said during the briefing that county officials are planning an Aug. 22 town hall session about monkeypox. More details about the time and participants would be available soon, he added.