Oregonians urged to take caution to prevent spread of hMPXV

Aug. 10, 2022 — On Aug. 8, Gov. Kate Brown urged Oregonians to take precautions to prevent the spread of hMPXV, more commonly known as the monkeypox virus. 

“The virus hMPXV, more commonly known as the monkeypox virus, is spreading in our communities, and it is time for us again to help protect each other,” she stated. “Let me be very clear: monkeypox is a virus that can impact anyone. Viruses spread regardless of your background, zip code, income level, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation –– anyone can be infected by hMPXV. Period.”

OHA has been operating an Incident Management Team focused on hMPXV for the last several weeks, guided by advice from a medical advisory panel composed of organizations serving Oregon’s most impacted communities.

The governor said Oregon public health experts are following the science and data to make sure that testing and contact tracing resources, vaccines and information are reaching the populations of Oregonians that are at highest risk. In the current outbreak, the most impacted communities have included gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

“We have an ugly history in this country of ignoring diseases that primarily impact the LGBTQ+ community,” Brown said. “I remember the early days of the HIV epidemic, when a generation of gay men was dying and the government did not seem to care. It took years before there was general recognition from the public that HIV, like all viruses, spreads indiscriminately. Fortunately, we know much about how to protect ourselves from hMPXV. It is rarely fatal, and there are already effective tests to diagnose the disease among people with symptoms. There are also safe and effective vaccines for those at highest risk of the disease, as well as safe and effective treatments for those at highest risk of severe disease — which is why it is so critical for the federal government to distribute them quickly.”

She urged all Oregonians to take steps to protect themselves and others from hMPXV.

“If you’re planning to attend a festival, concert, party or other event, consider the amount of close, personal and skin-to-skin contact that may occur,” Brown said. “If you are feeling sick and have symptoms like a new rash, avoid close skin-to-skin contact, and call your healthcare provider or 2-1-1 if you think you may have been exposed.

“If you are scared, if you feel like no one cares––know that I stand with you. Know that you are not alone. I am urging the federal government to speed up the purchase and distribution of vaccines nationwide. And, I am working with our state, local, and federal partners to ensure vaccines, resources, and information are being distributed as quickly as possible. This is Oregon, and we do not stand by when our neighbors need help.”

As of Monday, 89 people throughout Oregon are known or presumed to have contracted hMPXV. The virus hMPXV is spread primarily through close or prolonged skin-to-skin contact, including through sex, cuddling, kissing or massage. Contact with towels, clothing or other objects used by someone with the virus can also spread the virus. 

Earlier in the day, the governor met with leaders of community-based organizations representing the communities at highest risk for hMPXV. 

More information on hMPXV is available at www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/diseasesconditions/diseasesaz/pages/orthopoxviruses.aspx.

“In the last two-and-a-half years, whether during the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires or natural disasters, Oregonians have shown time and again that we step up to help keep our friends, neighbors and loved ones safe. … We are all very much in this together,” Brown said.