PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — The federal government on Thursday declared a public health emergency to help respond to the monkeypox outbreak that has infected more than 7,100 Americans.
The announcement will free up money and other resources to fight the virus, which can cause fevers, body aches, chills, fatigue and pimple-like bumps in many parts of the body.
“We stand ready to take our response to the next level in fighting this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” said Xavier Becerra, US Department of Health and Human Services chief.
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The HHS statement comes as the Biden administration has been criticized for the availability of monkeypox vaccines. Clinics in major cities like New York and San Francisco 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 supplies of the first doses .
The White House said it provided more than 1.1 million doses and helped increase domestic diagnostic capacity to 80,000 tests a week.
dr Sarah Bass, of Temple University’s College of Public Health, says declaring a public health emergency will prepare the nation, especially in manufacturing more vaccines.
“Hopefully this statement will help speed vaccine manufacturing so that we have enough vaccines for them to take prophylactically before they come into contact with anyone,” Bass said.
But given the nature of what we know, monkeypox spreads mainly through skin contact, fighting this virus will be very different than Covid-19.
dr Bass doesn’t expect measures like social distancing to become a factor.
“Covid was a very highly contagious, airborne disease and we didn’t have a vaccine for it and it was life-threatening,” Bass said.
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Despite this, she believes the delay in the health emergency is necessary. More than 26,000 cases have been reported worldwide, and over 6,600 cases have been reported in the United States.
“We’ve seen a pretty substantial increase in cases in a short space of time, so we definitely have community spread happening. Also, we have this vaccine, but we don’t have enough of it,” Bass said.
The monkeypox virus spreads through prolonged skin contact, including hugging, cuddling, and kissing, and sharing bedding, towels, and clothing. So far, men who have sex with men have been the most affected. However, health authorities emphasize that the virus can infect anyone.
Medical experts said symptoms like a headache, fever and painful blisters usually go away, but the CDC warns that children under the age of 8 and people with compromised immune systems are among the risk groups for serious illnesses.
For now, the CDC said to prevent infection and avoid close skin contact with people who may have a rash that looks like monkeypox. Also, do not share things like utensils or towels.
SEE ALSO: “It Still Hurts”: A Philadelphia Man With Monkeypox Shares His Story
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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