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Uptick in mpox cases raises concerns in San Diego County

This image shows purified particles of mpox virus, formerly called monkeypox. Viruses like these can be genetically altered in the lab in ways that might make them more dangerous.
This image shows purified particles of mpox virus. Viruses like these can be genetically altered in the lab in ways that might make them more dangerous.

San Diego County has witnessed a rise in mpox cases after experiencing a lull in reports for the majority of 2023.

Why it matters

Health officials attribute this surge to low vaccination rates and changing perceptions of the threat posed by mpox.

San Diego physician Dr. Carlton Thomas, who has gone viral on social media for his updates on mpox, works with federal health officials on vaccine messaging.

"I think that people get a little bit — it’s kind of like with COVID fatigue — everybody got tired of it after a while, and when mpox kind of died down people forgot about it," he said "And so if they weren't vaccinated they didn't get vaccinated, so they didn't think there was a threat anymore but it still does linger out there"

Dr. Winston Tilghman, medical director for the county’s HIV/STD/Hepatitis branch, said mpox can impact anyone, but the majority of cases have affected gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

"We’re continuing to work with our community partners in the LGBTQIA sector to increase awareness that mpox is still an issue that people need to be aware of and the importance of vaccination, which remains our best tool for preventing mpox," he said.

By the numbers

  • According to health reports, San Diego County observed merely two to three mpox cases per week for most of the year until October. However, the recent surge has led to the reporting of 32 cases since Oct. 1.
  • Tilghman said 16,000 San Diegans have gotten at least one vaccine. It’s a two dose series. He said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modeling estimates the local at-risk population to be about 55% vaccinated.

Closer look

Mpox can cause painful skin lesions, bumps or blisters.

Booster mpox doses are not currently recommended, but health officials said it’s still the best tool for prevention and reducing severity. And unlike parts of last year, officials say there is plenty of vaccine supply.

"That’s no longer an issue fortunately so we want to make people aware that the vaccine is readily available," Tilghman said.

Vaccines are available through primary care providers or county clinics. Appointments can be made at


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