WASHINGTON – Monkeypox has broken out More than 6,600 people have been infected in the United States is a public health emergency, the Biden administration declared Thursday, a move that could make it easier to tap funding and manage the federal bureaucracy to fight the once-rare disease.
The announcement comes more than a week after the head of the World Health Organization said on July 23 that the “extraordinary” situation qualifies as a global emergency.
While the disease is primarily spread among men who have sex with men, former US Surgeon General Jerome Adams told USA Today July 21 that it was only a matter of time before the epidemic spread more widely in the population.
Adams is among those who have called on the Biden administration to take more aggressive action against the rapidly escalating situation.
- The disease, a milder cousin of smallpox, was first reported in the United States in May. It is in more than 70 countries.
- Monkeypox is spread from person to person, usually through respiratory secretions, infected skin lesions or close contact with recently contaminated objects, according to the World Health Organization.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost all reported cases in the US have come through male-to-male sexual contact.
- Vaccines can be used to prevent both before and after exposure to monkeypox but there are not enough available.
- As of July 22, the Biden administration had shipped 300,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine across the country.
The disease began to spread as the world was still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike Covid-19, monkeypox is not a new disease and is not contagious. But officials are facing some of the same problems in fighting monkeypox that they faced at the beginning of the epidemic.
For example, monkeypox testing in the US was initially difficult because laboratories were not equipped for it.
According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, identifying monkeypox cases through testing and then contact-tracing is key to preventing community spread. Vaccines are also an important strategy, he said while declaring a global emergency.
Testing has been made more widely available and thousands of vaccines are being rolled out, according to Ashish Jha, the administration’s Covid-19 response coordinator.
Jha said that the US has more vaccine doses than any other country and may be higher than all countries combined.
Symptoms of monkeypox
Symptoms may begin seven to 14 days after exposure and include fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and a rash that may appear on the body. While it can be fatal in areas with poor medical care, no deaths have been reported in the US outbreak.
What are they saying?
- “We don’t have the capacity we need,” Adams told USA Today July 21, “but we’re seeing it slowly start to build, and experts like myself are calling on the CDC and the federal government to do more, to increase testing.” So, to increase vaccinations and increase the conversation about monkeypox.”
- “The response that is happening right now is increasing very significantly,” Jha said on July 24.
- “I don’t know why more vaccines aren’t available,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on July 24. “I want to light a fire under the administration and make sure that we increase production. Distribution, and that people who are ready and willing and able to get vaccinated have the ability to protect themselves.”
- “While this outbreak is spreading within a particular social network right now, I think we’ve sent the message from the beginning that there can be cases outside of that network and we need to be alert to that and be prepared to respond,” Jennifer said. said McQuiston, deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology at the CDC.
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Contributions: Rebecca Morin, Elizabeth Weiss.