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Dallas County declares health emergency as monkeypox cases see 'significant' regional rise

The county "has been seeing a significant increase" in monkeypox cases," Huang said.

DALLAS — Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins declared a public health emergency on Friday over the spread of monkeypox cases in North Texas, saying he hopes to get more vaccine doses delivered here as a result.

The declaration was an attempt 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," Jenkins said during a Friday virtual press conference on the subject.

"This is a disease that science knows a lot about," Jenkins said. "We want to contain it as quickly as we can. We have that opportunity now that we didn't have earlier because more vaccines are coming out."

Vaccine availability has been limited in Texas. As of Friday, Dallas County had enough vaccine doses to cover 5,000 people with their first shot, Jenkins said. 

About 1.1 million doses have distributed across the country, federal officials said Thursday.

The county "has been seeing a significant increase" in monkeypox cases," Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang said at the presser.

As of Friday, the county had identified 215 confirmed active cases. 

Huang said about 98% of cases have been identified in men, and most have been among men who have sex with other men, although anyone can infected by monkeypox.

Statewide, there have been 556 cases identified, according to Texas data. 

Of those, 267 have been identified in North Texas -- the largest portion of monkeypox cases in the state.

"It's not a cause for panic," Jenkins said of monkeypox in Dallas County. "But it is a cause for concern."

Watch Dallas County officials' full update Friday:

The vaccine is being made available to "high-risk" people, which include anyone who has had skin-to-skin contact with people who have monkeypox.

Dallas County received just over 5,000 doses of the vaccine last week, but Dr. Huang said that won’t come close to meeting demand.

“It’s still not a lot of doses,” Huang said during a virtual panel discussion Wednesday evening organized by Dallas councilmember Omar Narvaez and Dallas state representative Jessica Gonzalez.

The county has also launched a monkeypox hotline at 972-692-2780. But on the county's website is a disclaimer warning callers they may encounter difficulties getting their calls quickly answered due to a high volume of people trying to get through. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Vaccine doses are now being distributed by some local community clinics and health agencies, but doses are limited and appointments fill up fast.

The Dallas County emergency declaration followed President Biden's emergency monkeypox declaration on Thursday.

The White House said it has made more than 1.1 million doses available, and has helped to boost domestic diagnostic capacity to 80,000 tests per week.

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