West News Wire: The outbreak of the monkeypox disease has been deemed a public health emergency by US public health officials. The declaration will release more government funding to help stop the virus’s spread.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 6,600 instances of the illness were documented in the US as of August 3. (CDC).

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra stated during a conference on Thursday, “We’re prepared to take our reaction to the next level in tackling this illness, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously.”

The illness can cause symptoms like fever, headache, pains, chills, and rashes that can be painful and itchy, but it seldom results in death. There have been no reported deaths in the United States.

“Monkeypox can be spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed,” said the CDC website. “The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.”

The disease can spread through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, cuddling and kissing, and sharing bedding, towels and clothing. Health officials have emphasised that anyone can contract the disease, although men who have sex with men have been more likely to be affected.

The United Nations has also criticised some news coverage about the virus, warning that poor journalism can “reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma”.

The Biden administration has faced criticism for its failure to ensure the availability of vaccines for the disease, contributing to shortages in cities such as New York and San Francisco.

Earlier this week, the White House named officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the CDC to serve as the White House coordinators to combat the outbreak.

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Across the US, a number of states and municipalities have already declared public health emergencies. California, which has 826 confirmed cases, declared a state of emergency on August 1, and New York state, which has 1,666 confirmed cases, made a similar announcement on July 29.

International health organisations have also responded. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the spread of monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), the global health organisation’s highest level of alert, on July 23.

Cases have been reported in more than 70 countries where the disease is not typically present, and the CDC has said more than 26,000 cases have been reported worldwide.

Monkeypox is not known to be a sexually transmitted virus, but sexual contact would constitute close contact, one of the main routes by which the virus is known to spread.

The UN has suggested limiting the number of sexual partners a person has to decrease the risk of transmission. While men who have sex with men have been disproportionately likely to be affected, public officials have stressed that anybody can contract monkeypox.

“We know that this virus impacts everyone equally but we also know that those in our LGBTQ community are at greater risk right now,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed in a July 28 statement declaring monkeypox a local public health emergency.

“A few weeks ago, the San Francisco Department of Public Health requested 35,000 vaccines to start to get at those most at risk for contracting the virus,” said Breed. “So far, in the last three weeks, we’ve barely received a one-third of that request. We are going to need far more than 35,000 vaccines to protect our LGBTQ community and to slow the spread of this virus.”


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