California, New York, Illinois declare outbreak an emergency

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) talks to reporters after meeting Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, July 15, 2022.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on Monday over the rapidly spreading monkeypox outbreak, the third US state to do so in a matter of days.

Newsom said the emergency statement would help support the state’s vaccination efforts. The demand for the vaccines has outstripped the supply as the number of infections increases. Employees at sexual health clinics and other locations are struggling to keep up with the influx of people seeking the injections.

California is mobilizing emergency medical personnel to help administer the vaccines. Newsom said the state is working at all levels of government to slow the spread through testing, contract discovery and community outreach.

California’s statement comes after Illinois declared a public health emergency earlier Monday. New York declared a state of emergency on Friday in response to the outbreak.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US has reported nearly 6,000 cases of monkeypox in 48 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico. The outbreak has spread rapidly since health authorities in Boston confirmed the first US case in May.

California, Illinois and New York — home to the country’s three largest cities — have reported 47% of all confirmed monkeypox infections in the US. New York is the epicenter of the outbreak in the US, with nearly 1,400 confirmed cases as of Monday.

Monkeypox is rarely fatal and no deaths have been reported in the US so far. But some patients suffer excruciating pain from the rash caused by the virus. Scientists and public health officials are concerned that monkeypox could circulate permanently in the US if the outbreak is not contained.

Last month, the WHO declared monkeypox a global health emergency. More than 19,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in at least 78 countries, according to WHO data. The outbreak is unusual as the virus is spreading widely in North America and Europe. In the past, monkeypox spread at low levels in West and Central Africa, where rodents and other animals carry the virus.

Monkeypox is mainly transmitted through skin-to-skin contact during sex. Gay and bisexual men are currently most at risk for infection, public health officials say. About 98% of patients who provided demographic information to clinics identified as having sex with men, according to the CDC.

But health officials have repeatedly stressed that everyone gets monkey pox through physical contact with someone who has the rash characteristic of the disease or contaminated materials such as towels and bedding. The CDC last month confirmed the first two U.S. cases of children contracting the virus, likely through transmission within their families.

Monkeypox can also spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person has lesions in their mouth, but this requires prolonged face-to-face interaction, according to the CDC. Physical contact is the primary mode of transmission, health officials say.

US weighs public health emergency

According to senior federal health officials, the Biden administration is considering whether to declare a public health emergency in the US. This would help mobilize resources for state health officials fighting the outbreak. The last time the US declared a public health emergency was in response to Covid-19 in January 2020.

Lawmakers in Congress and local communities have criticized the pace of the federal government’s response, but Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said last week the Biden administration was doing everything it could to ramp up resources to contain the outbreak. to fight. Becerra said states must do more to prevent transmission, and Congress must approve funding to support response to the outbreak.

The Department of Health and Human Services has delivered more than 330,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine to state health departments since May. HHS made an additional 786,000 doses available to states and other jurisdictions on Friday. But some clinics administering the vaccines say they still haven’t gotten enough injections to meet demand at this point.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the two-dose vaccine of Jynneos in 2019 for people at high risk of exposure to monkeypox or smallpox. Jynneos, made by Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic, is the only FDA-approved monkeypox vaccine in the U.S.

The US now has the capacity to conduct 80,000 tests per week after bringing several commercial labs on board last month, the CDC said. But the number of confirmed infections in the US is probably an undercount because people can’t get tested until they get a rash, which can take several weeks in some cases. Clinicians take the result to get the sample for the test.

The US also has 1.7 million courses of the antiviral treatment tecovirimat in its strategic national stock. Doctors can use tecovirimat to treat monkeypox, but this requires an extra layer of bureaucracy because the drug is only approved for smallpox. The CDC cut red tape last month to make it easier for doctors to prescribe tecovirimat.

Monkeypox belongs to the same virus family as smallpox, but causes a much milder disease.

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