Gov. Inslee issues order to combat monkeypox in Washington state

Joining efforts to fight the monkeypox outbreak in Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a directive to help the Washington State Department of Health’s ongoing efforts.

Since the first case was confirmed in May, there were nearly 11,000 monkeypox cases in the U.S. and 265 cases across Washington as of Aug. 12. Of that, 225 cases are in King County, and 14 cases are in Pierce County.

According to a media release, the directive orders the following:

  • Conducting comprehensive public outreach and education within appropriate communities.
  • Prioritizing equitable distribution of existing treatments.
  • Supporting provider education to ensure MPV vaccine is maximized.
  • Monitoring case counts and demographic data.
  • Convening a series of roundtables with key stakeholders and legislators.
  • Working with and supporting local health jurisdictions.
  • Maintaining adequate testing capacity and addressing identified reporting gaps.

UW Medicine microbiologist Deborah Fuller says the governor’s directive has become increasingly necessary as each week goes by and case numbers climb. However, she’s optimistic about containing the virus.

“I don’t think that we should lose hope on this. There was another virus that was spread worldwide many years ago …called smallpox, and we managed to eradicate that from the world. This is a very similar virus,” says Fuller. “But we’re going to have to have a concerted world effort of diagnosis, improved testing of tracing, and getting a lot of vaccines out there.”

Like smallpox, there is a monkeypox vaccine available. However, that vaccine is in short supply. To combat the shortage, the FDA has approved administering smaller doses of the vaccine so healthcare providers can stretch the supply until more is available.

Although rarely fatal, monkeypox can be extremely painful and scarring. Existing vaccines help prevent infection and reduce the severity of the illness. Currently, there are no deaths related to monkeypox in Washington state.