As the number of monkeypox cases increases across the county, Dallas County has declared a state of emergency.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued the order after the number of cases reached 200 last week, according to ABC News. The order allows the county to devote more resources to the outbreak, and city officials hope to make more vaccines available as a result.
Jenkins explained that the declaration was primarily to “try to open more doors to get vaccines faster because we know that ultimately vaccination will be the key to getting the monkeypox outbreak under control.”
As of last Friday, Dallas County has recorded 292 monkeypox cases, 289 males and three females, according to county data. The county also reports another 45 suspected cases of the virus in Dallas.
“Vaccination is for prevention of monkeypox only,” Dallas County reports. “People with confirmed cases of monkeypox or symptoms of monkeypox are not eligible to receive the vaccine.”
A monkeypox vaccine hotline was activated in Dallas the first week of August, and Jenkins said that some individuals had trouble getting through the line.
“A lot of call volume. We had actually had some problems with the system [Tuesday] morning that were fixed by lunchtime,” said Jenkins, as reported by The Dallas Express.
The hotline number is 972-692-2780, but a disclaimer on the website warns callers that they may have difficulty connecting due to a high volume of calls. The hotline is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
While the overwhelming majority of positive cases are men who have sex with men, anyone can contract monkeypox. The virus can be passed through an infected person’s fluids, contact with an infected person’s lesions, bedding, or clothes, and even from respiratory droplets, as with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Dallas County has limited vaccine eligibility to “Persons who had close, intimate, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has tested positive for monkeypox” and “Men (cisgender and transgender) 18 and older who have sex with men and who also have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the past 14 days.”
Texas Health and Human Services delivered over 5,000 doses of the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine to Dallas County last month, partly because Dallas County had the most confirmed cases of monkeypox in the entire state at the time, The Dallas Express reported.
Children returning to school and other major events are also causing concern among city officials, ABC News reported. They’re reminding people to be aware of monkeypox symptoms and avoid skin-to-skin contact in crowds.
Officials from Dallas County Health and Human Services have already requested additional vaccine doses from the state and federal governments and anticipate receiving them soon, according to ABC News.