Health providers at a Palm Springs STI clinic says Riverside County public health is not ready for a rise in Monkeypox cases after a patient there reported possible exposure to the virus.
Dr. Phyllis Ritchie, CEO and Founder of PS Test in Palm Springs, said a patient last Thursday reported receiving a notification from Los Angeles County health department that they had been possibly exposed to Monkeypox after attending an LA Pride event.
So far, only one person in Riverside County has gotten a preliminary positive Monkeypox test result – but county officials said only three people have been tested for it. That's because certain criteria has to be met to be tested.
Ritchie strongly suspects there are other undiagnosed cases locally. "This is about to explode in Palm Springs and elsewhere," she said. "I think it's actually already here beyond just one patient."
Clinic officials at PS Test said when they contacted the county about the possible exposure, they were told the Monkeypox vaccine is not readily available here. They said clear guidance hasn't been given on how to test for the virus either, and they're worried Riverside County's response is falling behind.
"There is nowhere to get vaccinated in Riverside County," said Matt Moran, associate medical director at PS Test. "The next question was: do they need to stay at home? What do they need to do? Good questions – but no guidelines for the Department of Health here in the county."
News Channel 3 brought those concerns to Barbara Cole, Riverside County Department of Public Health's director for disease control. She said the county is working on strategies to make the vaccine available both pre- and post-exposure.
The program is not yet in place, Cole said, due to short supply. "We can't offer vaccine that we don't yet have," she said. "As soon as that issue is addressed, we will have a plan."
Other places including New York City are offering Monkeypox vaccines to people who may have been exposed – something Moran said Riverside County should already be doing too.
"That's a little late," Moran said. "That time is now. Should have worked on it before, because it's hitting now."
Cole said the county has communicated to healthcare providers about what symptoms look like and factors that increase a person's risk.
Monkeypox is spread through prolonged, direct physical contact including intimacy, and is mainly affecting men that have sex with other men right now.
PS Test officials say they're concerned that with big gay population in Palm Springs, Riverside County should be on the forefront of the Monkeypox outbreak response.