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U.S. declares Monkeypox a health emergency


With many in the country still dealing with Covid, this week another health emergency was added to the list for Americans. The federal government declared Monkeypox a public health emergency

The move was done to bolster the response to the monkeypox outbreak that has infected more than 6,600 Americans. With this announcement, money and other resources will be freed up to fight the virus. 

Xavier Becerra, head of the Department of Health and Human Services said, “We are prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously.”

Under the declaration, HHS can draw from emergency funds, hire or reassign staff to deal with the outbreak, and take other steps to control the virus. The Biden administration also named several top officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to serve as the White House coordinators to combat monkeypox.

Monkeypox causes fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, and pimple-like bumps on many body parts. The HHS declaration comes as criticism rises over monkeypox vaccine availability. The monkeypox virus spreads through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, cuddling, and kissing, as well as sharing bedding, towels, and clothing. The people who have gotten sick so far have been primarily men who have sex with men. But health officials emphasize that the virus can infect anyone. No one in the United States has died, but a few deaths have been reported in other countries. 

Clinics in hard-hit cities such as New York and San Francisco say they haven’t received enough of the two-shot vaccine to meet demand, with some saying they have stopped offering the second dose to ensure the supply of first doses. 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.

Commenting on the declaration, Lawrence Gostin, a public health law expert at Georgetown University said. “It signals the U.S. government’s seriousness and purpose and sounds a global alarm. It is a textbook case of a public health emergency,” Gostin said. “It’s not a red or a blue state issue. There is no political opposition to fighting monkeypox.” 

The rapid spread of the virus coupled with the limited availability of the two-dose vaccine had created a sense of urgency. Monkeypox can be prevented with the Jynneos smallpox vaccine, which can also be effective after a person is diagnosed, according to the CDC. 

Jynneos, which is considered the main medical weapon against the disease, is given 28 days apart. To prevent symptoms, some health officials are currently giving the vaccine to people soon after they think they were exposed. 

Along with the vaccine, medical professionals have also used antiviral treatments, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), for monkeypox in patients who are more likely to get severely ill.

Said Secretary Becerra, “Ending the monkeypox outbreak is a critical priority for the Biden-Harris Administration. We are taking our response to the next level by declaring a public health emergency. With today’s declaration, we can further strengthen and accelerate our response further.”


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