- The HHS is declaring a public health emergency over the ongoing monkeypox outbreak.
- New York, Illinois, and California have all declared a state of emergency in response to the current monkeypox outbreak.
- States are declaring states of emergency to allow federal, state, and local governments to devote more resources to combat the outbreak.
The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra announced that the government is declaring a public health emergency over the ongoing monkeypox outbreak.
Currently, over 6,600 people have been diagnosed with the disease in the U.S.
“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously and to take responsibility to help us tackle this virus,” Becerra told reporters today.
With the declaration of a public health emergency, officials said it will make it easier for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to get access to key data on monkeypox cases.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, said in the press conference that the public health emergency will help raise awareness about the outbreak and that data on testing and treatment will get to the CDC more quickly.
“Importantly, this declaration will also help us continue to expand public health ability to expedite data sharing so that we can have comprehensive and timely data available to inform public health decisions,” she told reporters.
Access to the JYNNEOS vaccine for monkeypox has remained limited in the U.S.
In numerous cities, those eligible for the vaccine have had to wait in long lines for hours in the hopes of getting a vaccine. In many cases, clinics shut down soon after opening after running out of vaccines.
Becerra said about 600,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine have been released to states so far and hundreds of thousands of doses up to a total of 1.1 vaccine doses will be released in the coming months.
In an effort to stretch the vaccine, health officials said they were investigating a way of splitting up a single shot into 5 doses that could be given to 5 different people. In this case, the shot would be given intradermally between layers of the skin.
Traditionally the injection would be given subcutaneously or under the skin.
The new method of giving the vaccine intradermally will need to be reviewed and authorized by federal officials before it is used.
“California is working urgently across all levels of government to slow the spread of monkeypox, leveraging our robust testing, contact tracing and community partnerships strengthened during the pandemic to ensure that those most at risk are our focus for vaccines, treatment and outreach,” California governor Gavin Newsom, said in a statement.
In Spain, at least two deaths have been attributed to infection with the virus, and Brazil recently reported the nation’s first monkeypox death. So far, the African continent is hardest hit with more than 75 suspected deaths, according to PBS.
“At least one of the patients was an immunosuppressed person who would be at more risk for a more serious outcome,” Stuart Isaacs, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told Healthline.
“Whether this was from the virus and/or a bacterial super-infection that ultimately led to the death – I don’t know any of the specifics,” continued Isaacs, who is also a contributor to Wolters Kluwer’s UpToDate content on poxviruses.
Isaacs emphasized that monkeypox is spreading in an “unprecedented” manner.
“Historically this is not how the virus spreads, and so this is brand new,” he confirmed.
He also said this virus behaves very differently than SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.
Since SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus, and when it replicates it can more easily result in new variants.
“Monkeypox is a DNA virus, so its genome is in the double-stranded DNA,” he said. “The way it replicates, it replicates more carefully than RNA viruses.”
Isaacs said this means there is less risk that monkeypox could mutate into a varitey of new variants.
“That said, mutations do happen and this human-to-human spread is not what has been seen in the past,” he said.
According to Rachel Bruce, MD, interim chair of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in Queens, states are declaring states of emergency to allow federal, state, and local governments to devote more resources to combat the outbreak.
“It is an important tool in ending the outbreak,” she emphasized. “And should not alarm people.”
Eric Cioe-Pena, MD, director of Global Health for Northwell Health in New York, In general, said these emergency declarations shouldn’t change much about how the average person gets around.
“We need better contact tracing and quick vaccination to prevent this from becoming an issue that will affect an average person,” he said. “The state of emergency is to free up resources to make sure this gets contained.”
Cioe-Pena added that monkeypox isn’t spreading nearly as fast as COVID-19, and is very unlikely to overwhelm our healthcare system.
“But our public health system is fragile and broken and we need to reinforce the public health institutions so we can get this under control,” he said.
Bruce said monkeypox is spread by close physical contact, which means contact with respiratory secretions, such as through kissing, skin-to-skin contact with the sores, or touching the clothes, towels, or sheets used by a person who has monkeypox.
“It is not spread the same way as COVID-19,” she said. “Which is spread through the air when people talk, cough, or sneeze, and to a lesser extent, through contaminated surfaces – it is much less contagious than COVID-19.”
Isaacs said that most patients don’t require treatment for monkeypox infection.
“This is a self-limited infection,” he said. “It will resolve on its own in immunocompetent people.”
However, when people with healthy immune systems do need treatment, it’s because the location of the infection is causing severe pain, said Isaacs.
Pena said the antiviral called
“There is a vaccine to prevent monkeypox,” said Bruce. “Right now, it is being limited to people deemed at high risk of infection.”
She advises those interested in the vaccine to check with their local health departments and offered precautions to reduce infection risk.
“If you know or are caring for someone with monkeypox, avoid skin-to-skin contact with their rash,” said Bruce. “Do not kiss, share utensils, or touch their unwashed clothing or bedding.”
She cautioned anyone with a new or unexplained rash to avoid close contact with other people until they’ve seen a medical professional.
“For the vast majority of people, monkeypox is a self-limited infection that resolves on its own,” Bruce noted. “Very few people have needed to be hospitalized. There have been no deaths in the U.S., and deaths worldwide have been rare.”
The HHS announced a public health emergency today over the ongoing monkeypox outbreak.
New York, Illinois, and California have declared states of emergency in response to the current monkeypox outbreak.