Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs is the latest health care provider to have TPOXX, a drug currently used for monkeypox, available to patients.
Tecovirimat, or TPOXX, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of smallpox, but not monkeypox. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is allowing the drug to be used for monkeypox infections in adults and children of all ages through an Investigational New Drug Expanded Access Protocol.
Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus. People usually become infected through close contact with broken skin or bodily fluids of infected animals or humans (living or dead), including droplets, or an infected person’s clothing and linens. The virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact, but it is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection.
Symptoms can occur five to 21 days after exposure and include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, rashes, and sores often in the genital and perianal area. The illness usually lasts two to four weeks.
Palm Springs Hospital received the oral and IV forms of the drug on Aug. 22, said Dr. Claudia Fortiche, research program manager at Desert Regional. Oral medication, usually three pills taken twice a day, is the preferred method of treatment, Foriche said, but an IV is available for patients who have painful mouth lesions that make swallowing difficult. Once a patient is able to swallow, the CDC recommends switching to the oral form, Foriche said.
Data on the number of patients who used the drug or were hospitalized at Desert Regional were not provided.
TPOXX is often prescribed for patients who are immunocompromised or have a serious illness, but it is not limited to these people. A person will need to go to the Desert Regional emergency department, see an infectious disease physician who will determine if the drug should be prescribed, and then sign a consent form in order to receive TPOXX.
Patients will receive instructions on how to take TPOXX as well as a patient diary. Treatment should be used for up to 14 days, but can be extended if needed, Fortiche said.
A regional physician in the desert will follow up patients after using TPOXX.
Although Palm Springs Hospital offers the drug, it is not a local supplier of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine. Vaccine locations can be found at www.rivcoph.org/mpx/Vaccine-Locations.
Health officials say the Palm Springs area is at high risk for infection given its large number of LGBTQ+ residents and tourists. The virus can infect anyone, but in the current outbreak in the United States it has disproportionately affected men who have sex with men, a group that includes people who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender and non-binary.
Fortiche said it was “gratifying” to help patients and see them breathe a sigh of relief once they have received treatment. “It’s very moving to see,” she added.
Borrego Health, DAP Health, Desert Oasis, Eisenhower Health, Kaiser Permanente, and Riverside County-operated health care clinics also provide TPOXX to patients in the Coachella Valley.
Another case reported in Riverside County
On Friday, Riverside County Public Health reported another confirmed or probable case of monkeypox.
The cities with the most cases are Palm Springs (82), Cathedral City (27), Desert Hot Springs (nine), Riverside (eight) and Palm Desert and Moreno Valley (five each), according to the county monkeypox scoreboard.
There have been 165 confirmed and probable cases reported in Riverside County, Palm Springs and Cathedral City accounting for two-thirds of those cases.
Anyone who thinks they have been exposed to monkeypox should contact their healthcare provider.
Ema Sasic covers entertainment and health in the Coachella Valley. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @ema_sasic.