UPDATED 2:35 PM PT – Thursday, August 4, 2022
The Biden administration declared Monkeypox a public health emergency. In a press briefing Thursday, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra called on Americans to take Monkeypox seriously as the US posted more than 7,000 cases. The disease has been spreading in the US since May and cases are expected to continue to rise.
In light of evolving circumstances on the ground, I am declaring a public health emergency on #monkeypox. We are prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus. We urge every American to take monkeypox seriously.
— Secretary Xavier Becerra (@SecBecerra) August 4, 2022
He added that the emergency designation allows the government to accelerate the distribution of Monkeypox vaccines. The Biden administration also appointed FEMA officials to coordinate the Moneypox response. This comes after California, New York and Illinois designated Monkeypox a health emergency which prompted calls to do the same on the federal level. A public health emergency opens up funding for disease response and could help accelerate access to existing treatments for the painful disease. Monkeypox vaccines already exist and are in use around the country, but they’re still in short supply.
The declaration follows the World Health Organization announcement last month that Monkeypox is a public health emergency of international concern. WHO defines a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, as “an extraordinary event” that constitutes a “public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease” and “to potentially require a coordinated international response.”
“This public health emergency will allow us to explore different strategies to get vaccines and treatments more quickly out to impacted communities and it will allow us to get more data from jurisdictions so we can effectively track and attack this outbreak,” stated Robert Fenton, White House national Monkeypox response coordinator.
HHS recently said it’s adding 800,000 doses of Monkeypox vaccines to its stockpile amid calls for mass-vaccination for Monkeypox among the gay circles. Monkeypox causes a rash and lesions along with symptoms like fevers and swollen lymph nodes. It does not spread as easily as COVID-19 and so far experts think it is primarily transmitted through close person-to-person contact.
Most cases have appeared among men who have sex with men, though people outside that group have also tested positive for the infection.