Biden admin declares Monkeypox a public health emergency
The Biden administration has declared monkeypox a public health emergency as cases of the infectious disease continue to soar across the US.
Announcing the decision on Thursday afternoon, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra called on every American to take the virus seriously to help contain the outbreak, Reuters reported.
“We are prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” Mr Becerra said on a call to reporters.
The move will bolster the federal government’s response to the growing outbreak, freeing up funding for vaccinations and treatments.
It would also allow more workers to be hired to manage the outbreak, and follows state-level public emergency declarations in New York, Illinois and California.
The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 6,617 cases have been recorded in 48 states, as of Wednesday.
The Biden administration has faced criticism it was too slow to roll out vaccines and treatments after the first cases were detected in the US on 18 May.
Demand for vaccines has far outstripped supply in major centres like New York City, San Francisco and Chicago, where the majority of the positive cases have been recorded.
The White House said in a statement on Tuesday it had made over 1.1 million doses of vaccine available, and expanded testing capacity to over 80,000 tests per week.
President Joe Biden appointed two officials to lead the federal government’s response.
Robert Fenton, who helped lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Covid-19 vaccination effort, was named the role of White House coordinator.
The CDC’s Demetre Daskalakis is his deputy.
Politico reported that a memo circulated by the Department of Health and Human Services calling for an emergency declaration had received broad support from all of the US health agencies.
The White House is expected to make a formal announcement on Thursday.
Monkeypox was declared a global public health emergency by the World Health Organisation in July.
The current outbreak, which originated in Europe, is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and has mostly impacted gay and bisexual men.
Symptoms include fevers, headaches and muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes.
Although it is rarely fatal, deaths have been recorded in Spain, Brazil and India in the past two weeks.