Biden administration declare monkeypox a public health emergency

Biden administration declare monkeypox a public health emergency

The White House declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Thursday, clearing the way for a more muscular response to the virus that is spreading rapidly.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra made the monkeypox emergency declaration, which will unlock federal money and other resources to fight the virus, which may cause fever, body aches, chills, fatigue and pimple-like bumps on many parts of the body.

“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level,” Becerra said.

The announcement came on the heels of similar decisions by health officials in New York city and state, as well as California and Illinois.

“The public health emergency declaration further raises awareness about the current monkeypox outbreak,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky of the Centers for Disease Control.

The monkeypox virus spreads primarily through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, cuddling and kissing, as well as sharing bedding, towels and clothing. People getting sick so far have been primarily men who have sex with men. But health officials emphasize that the virus can infect anyone.

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The declaration comes as the Biden administration has faced criticism over monkeypox vaccine availability. New York sexual health clinics say they haven’t received enough of the two-shot vaccine to meet demand, and some have had to stop offering the second dose to ensure the supply of first doses.

“I commend Secretary Becerra for heeding my call to declare the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency.,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). “I will continue to push the Administration to use every tool at its disposal to mitigate the threat monkeypox poses to our nation’s public health and ensure testing, vaccines, and treatment are available to those who need it.”

Officials called New York “ground zero” of the outbreak although they insisted they are working hard to raise awareness outside big cities and even in rural areas.

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the deputy White House monkeypox coordinator, said health officials would focus on “non-stigmatizing” messages aimed at the LGBTQ community.

He added that the declaration shows that the White House “values the lives” of those in the communities affected.

The World Health Organization last month issued its highest-level warning, after confirming outbreaks in about 70 countries where the virus is not usually seen.

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The U.S. has already reported 6,600 monkeypox infections in the outbreak that started in March.

The White House said it has made more than 1.1 million doses of vaccine available and has helped to boost domestic diagnostic capacity to 80,000 tests per week.

Such a declaration is an important — and overdue — step, said Lawrence Gostin, a public health law expert at Georgetown University.

“It signals the U.S. government’s seriousness and purpose, and sounds a global alarm,” he said.

Under a declaration by the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency can draw from emergency funds, hire or reassign staff to deal with the outbreak, and take other steps to control the virus.

Gostin said the U.S. government has been too cautious and should have declared a national emergency earlier. Public health measures to control outbreaks have increasingly faced legal challenges in recent years, but Gostin didn’t expect that to happen with monkeypox.

“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.”

With News Wire Services

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