SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A San Diego gastroenterologist is sounding the alarm about a recent spike in mpox cases and is urging patients who’ve been vaccinated against the illness to still use caution after seeing breakthrough cases.
“People have completely forgotten about it,” said Dr. Carlton Thomas.
Mpox– formerly known as monkeypox – is an illness that can cause skin rashes and lesions that can last for weeks. It’s spread by close skin-to-skin contact including sex.
“It can be extremely painful depending on where you’re infected,” Thomas said.
Last month in San Diego County, there were 14 cases of mpox. The illness has been linked to 55 deaths in the United States.
In October, there were 25 cases in the county. The resurgence comes after San Diego had almost no cases for months. In total, there’s been 522 cases in the county since last June. Virtually all have been in men who have sex with men.
The county told 10News that 36% of cases this year have been in vaccinated patients.
“While mpox is not exclusively an STI, it is mostly an STI and mostly in the gay and bisexual community right now... It could absolutely drift over into the heterosexual community,” Thomas said.
Thomas has a large following on Instagram and TikTok and is getting messages from patients across the country who’ve been infected recently along with photos of their lesions.
He said only about half of the people at risk for mpox in San Diego have been vaccinated and would like to see that number climb.
“It’s 86% effective so it’s not a silver bullet but if you do get infected it reduces your symptoms and improves your outcome dramatically.”