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US to declare health emergency over monkeypox outbreak

By ZEKE MILLER, MIKE STO­BBE and MICHAEL BAL­SAMO

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — The U.S. will de­clare a pub­lic health emer­gency to bol­ster the fed­er­al re­sponse to the mon­key­pox­out­break that has in­fect­ed more than 6,600 Amer­i­cans, two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said Thurs­day.

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The an­nounce­ment will free up fed­er­al mon­ey and oth­er re­sources to fight the virus, which may cause fever, body aches, chills, fa­tigue and pim­ple-like bumps on many parts of the body. The peo­ple spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty ahead of an of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

The de­c­la­ra­tion comes as the the Biden ad­min­is­tra­tion has faced crit­i­cism over mon­key­pox vac­cine avail­abil­i­ty. Clin­ics in ma­jor cities such as 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 sup­ply of first dos­es

The White House said it has made more than 1.1 mil­lion dos­es avail­able and has helped to boost do­mes­tic di­ag­nos­tic ca­pac­i­ty to 80,000 tests per week

The mon­key­pox virus spreads through pro­longed and close skin-to-skin con­tact, in­clud­ing hug­ging, cud­dling and kiss­ing, as well as shar­ing bed­ding, tow­els and cloth­ing. The peo­ple who have got­ten sick so far have been pri­mar­i­ly men who have sex with men. But health of­fi­cials em­pha­size that the virus can in­fect any­one

The an­nounce­ment comes three days af­ter the Biden ad­min­is­tra­tion named top of­fi­cials from the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency and the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion to serve as the White House co­or­di­na­tors to com­bat the mon­key­pox out­break

News of the ex­pect­ed de­c­la­ra­tion was first re­port­ed Thurs­day by Politi­co

Such a de­c­la­ra­tion is an im­por­tant — and over­due — step, said Lawrence Gostin, a pub­lic health law ex­pert at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty

“It sig­nals the U.S. gov­ern­ment’s se­ri­ous­ness and pur­pose, and sounds a glob­al alarm,” he said

Un­der a de­c­la­ra­tion by the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, the agency can draw from emer­gency funds, hire or re­as­sign staff to deal with the out­break, and take oth­er steps to con­trol the virus

A pub­lic health emer­gency can be ex­tend­ed, sim­i­lar to what hap­pened dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic

Gostin said the U.S. gov­ern­ment has been too cau­tious and should have de­clared a na­tion­wide emer­gency ear­li­er. Pub­lic health mea­sures to con­trol out­breaks have in­creas­ing­ly faced le­gal chal­lenges in re­cent years, but Gostin didn’t ex­pect that to hap­pen with mon­key­pox

“It is a text­book case of a pub­lic health emer­gency,” Gostin said. “It’s not a red or a blue state is­sue. There is no po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion to fight­ing mon­key­pox.”

The gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion comes af­ter oth­ers have made sim­i­lar de­c­la­ra­tions

Last week, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion called mon­key­pox a pub­lic health emer­gency, with cas­es in more than 70 coun­tries. A glob­al emer­gency is WHO’s high­est lev­el of alert, but the des­ig­na­tion does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean a dis­ease is par­tic­u­lar­ly trans­mis­si­ble or lethal

Cal­i­for­nia, Illi­nois and New York have all made de­c­la­ra­tions in the last week, as have New York City, San Fran­cis­co and San Diego Coun­ty

Source: As­so­ci­at­ed Press