San Francisco officials declare state of emergency as monkeypox cases surge

A person holds a sign reading: 'Monkeypox is not just a gay thing'

San Francisco has declared a state of emergency, with the city in “desperate need of vaccines” as monkeypox cases skyrocket.

The US has seen around 4,600 confirmed cases of monkeypox across the country. Of these cases, 261 have been detected in San Francisco, representing around 30 per cent of all cases in California.

On Thursday (28 July), San Francisco mayor London Breed said: “We are at a very scary place. And we don’t want to be ignored by the federal government in our need. So many leaders of the LGBT community have also, weeks ago, asked for additional help and support and assistance.”

By declaring a state of emergency, San Francisco will be able to allocate more resources to fight the virus. Breed added that the city was in “desperate need of vaccines”. 

San Francisco’s emergency declaration comes as earlier this week World Health Organization (WHO) said the accelerating monkeypox outbreak was a global health emergency, the health agency’s highest level of alert.

Monkeypox has spread around the world in recent months, however the outbreak is concentrated in Europe, and gay and bisexual men are disproportionately affected.

The health department of San Francisco, arguably the LGBTQ+ capital of America, has faced criticism for its response to the monkeypox outbreak because of a lack of public messaging and vaccine information.

The queer community and LGBTQ+ organisations have had to pick up the slack, with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation setting up a monkeypox advice hotline, and creating a vaccine waiting list, rather than forcing those at risk to queue for hours.

But state senator Scott Wiener, who represents the city, said: “San Francisco was at the forefront of the public health responses to HIV and COVID-19, and we will be at the forefront when it comes to monkeypox. We can’t and won’t leave the LGBTQ community out to dry.”

The most visible monkeypox symptom is a red rash with flat marks, with lesions soon rising and filling with puss, before falling off. 

According to the NHS, other symptoms include a fever, body aches, chills and swollen glands. Symptoms can take between 5 and 21 days to show and bouts of monkeypox can last for weeks.