The United States has declared monkeypox a public health emergency, the health secretary said Thursday, a move expected to free up additional funding and tools to fight the disease.
On Wednesday, the number of cases of monkeypox in the United States reached 6,600, virtually exclusively affecting males who have sex with men.
“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said at a briefing.
Along with Becerra, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky stated that the declaration will also increase the accessibility of monkeypox data.
The World Health Organisation also has designated monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern,” its highest alert level. The WHO declaration last month was designed to trigger a coordinated international response and could unlock funding to collaborate on vaccines and treatments.
Following the declaration of emergencies by California, Illinois, and New York, Biden named two top federal officials earlier this month to oversee his administration’s response to monkeypox.
According to the WHO, the illness, which was first discovered in monkeys in 1958, has moderate symptoms including fever, pains, and skin lesions packed with pus, and most individuals recover from it in two to four weeks. It is rarely fatal and spreads through close personal contact.
As part of efforts to contain the outbreak, Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical advisor, told newsmen on Thursday that it was essential to involve leaders from the homosexual community. However, he issued a warning against stigmatising the illness and its victims.
“Engagement of the community has always proven to be successful,” Fauci said.
Monkeypox, which was initially identified in Africa in the 1970s, has vaccines and therapies available unlike when COVID-19 first appeared.
Up until mid-July, the U.S. government had distributed 156,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccination all over the country. It has placed an additional order for 2.5 million doses of the vaccine from Bavarian Nordic.
Monkeypox was officially diagnosed in the United States for the first time in Massachusetts in May. Five days later, California reported its own case.
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