Science

United States declares monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency

The United States declared a public health emergency over the monkeypox outbreak on Thursday, a decision that should free up funds, ease data collection and send more personnel to fight the disease.

“We are ready to take our response to the virus to the next level and call on all Americans to take monkeypox seriously and do whatever is necessary to help us fight the virus,” Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said.

The 90-day, renewable declaration comes at a time when the number of cases reported in the United States topped 6,600 on Thursday, about a quarter of them in New York State alone.

However, experts fear the real figure is much higher due to sometimes very subtle symptoms, including simple lesions.

The federal government has provided about 600,000 doses of the vaccine, sold under the name Jynneos in North America and Imvanex in Europe, originally developed for smallpox.

But that number is still a far cry from the roughly 1.6 million people considered at high risk in the country.

The Department of Health said last week that 99% of cases reported in the US involve men who have sex with men. This population group is a priority target for vaccination.

Unlike previous waves in Africa, this new monkeypox epidemic is primarily transmitted sexually, but the US Health Authorities (CDC) indicate that other routes are possible, including through bedding, clothing and prolonged face-to-face contact.

At the end of July, the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced a high alert level to step up the fight against monkeypox.

On Thursday, the US Medicines Agency, the FDA, for its part, said it was exploring the possibility of allowing caregivers to give five doses of the vaccine from one by changing the way it is given.

The first symptoms of monkeypox are high fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a chickenpox-like rash.

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