The United States Government Thursday declared monkeypox a health emergency amid an increasing number of infections nationwide. The decision allows the agencies concerned to have access to emergency funds and manage vaccines and treatments for the malady, which has not yet been linked to any death in the country.
Upon announcing the measure, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said that we're prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 6,617 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the United States as of Wednesday.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), monkeypox is since July 23 a global health emergency.
The emergency declaration will also boost awareness and information efforts that officials say are essential to contain the country's rapidly advancing contagions.
Earlier this week, President Joseph Biden named Robert Fenton as the White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator, while Dr. Demetre Daskalakis will be Deputy Coordinator.
Fenton currently serves as Regional Administrator for FEMA Region 9 in the American West, with nearly 50 million people in his area of responsibility. Fenton has twice served as Acting Administrator of FEMA and led multiple challenging prevention, response, and recovery operations, including natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and complex humanitarian deployments.
Daskalakis is a leading public health expert and the current Director of the CDC Division of HIV Prevention. His clinical practice has focused on providing care for the underserved LGBTQIA+ communities. He previously oversaw the management of infectious diseases for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Fenton and Daskalakis combined have over four decades of experience in Federal emergency response and public health leadership, including overseeing the operations and implementation of key components of the Biden Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and leading local and Federal public health emergency efforts such as infectious disease control and HIV prevention. Both played critical roles in making COVID vaccines more accessible for underserved communities and closing the equity gap in adult vaccination rates, through the implementation and execution of FEMA mass vaccination sites in some of the country’s most underserved communities, and working with trusted members of local communities to build vaccine confidence, the White House said in a statement.
Over the coming weeks, under the leadership of Fenton and Daskalakis, the Administration will advance and accelerate the United States’ monkeypox response to mitigate the spread of the virus, protect individuals most at risk of contracting the virus, and care for those who have been afflicted with it, it went on.
There are over 6,500 cases of monkeypox in the US, from 4,600 reported last week.
The national emergency declaration will also require states to share health information on monkeypox with federal authorities, which will expedite the emergency response, said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky.
According to the WHO, more than 16,000 cases were detected in 75 countries, many of them European. Some deaths have also been reported.
Becerra also admitted he was considering a second declaration that would allow officials to expedite potential treatments and vaccines through the review process and allow flexibility in administering the vaccine supply.
And FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said Thursday that the agency was considering lower doses so that more people could be vaccinated.
The CDC lists monkeypox symptoms as fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, a rash, exhaustion, and respiratory symptoms like coughing and congestion. The symptoms usually start within three weeks of exposure and the illness usually lasts two to four weeks.
Last week, health officials announced that more than one million vaccines against the disease would be made available to states in the coming days. Of these, 600,000 have already been delivered, Becerra announced. Government officials also expect to receive another 150,000 doses in September and additional batches in October and November.