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Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said on Thursday that the country would declare a public health emergency due to the monkeypox outbreak.
“In light of the evolving situation on the ground, I declare a public health emergency for #monkeypox,” Becerra said in a statement. “We are ready for the next level in dealing with this virus and urge all Americans to take monkeypox seriously.”
Later on Thursday, President Biden said, “We remain committed to the monkeypox response. We will increase vaccine distribution, expand testing, and educate at-risk communities.”
“That’s why declaring a public health emergency on the virus today is so important to confronting this outbreak with urgency,” Biden said.
The monkeypox outbreak infected more than 6,600 Americans. The state of emergency frees up federal funds and other resources to fight the virus. The virus can cause fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, and acne-like bumps on many parts of the body. The situation may be extended.
The White House said it has made more than 1.1 million doses of the vaccine available, helping boost the country’s diagnostic capacity to 80,000 tests per week.
Monkeypox cases in India reach 9 just two days after initial reports
Last week, the World Health Organization called monkeypox a public health emergency, with cases occurring in more than 70 countries. A global emergency is WHO’s highest level of alert, but this designation does not necessarily mean that the disease is particularly contagious or deadly.
California, Illinois, and New York all made declarations last week, as did New York City, San Francisco, and San Diego counties.
The monkeypox virus is spread through prolonged close skin-to-skin contact and sharing bedding, towels, and clothing. Health officials stress that the virus can infect anyone, but so far it has mostly been men who have sex with men who have gotten sick.
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Earlier this week, the Biden administration appointed senior officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as White House coordinators for fighting the monkeypox outbreak.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.