The U.S. government has declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Thursday as cases exceeded 6,600 nationwide.
The declaration could ease access to emergency funds, allow health agencies to collect more data on cases and vaccinations, make it easier to distribute vaccines and make it easier for doctors to prescribe treatments. "We are ready to take our response to the next level in the fight against this virus, and we are calling on every American to take monkeypox seriously and take responsibility for helping to deal with this virus," the Department of Health and Human Services said.
A quarter of the US cases are in New York state, which declared a state of emergency last week. California and Illinois declared states of emergency on Monday. The World Health Organization last month declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern, a designation reserved for the world's worst disease outbreak. It has previously been used for Covid-19, Zika, H1N1 flu, polio and Ebola.
At least 26,200 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed worldwide this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox is usually spread through the male sex, which was not the case in previous outbreaks of the virus. All but 1% of monkeypox cases in the U.S. so far have been in people who were assigned male at birth, the Department of Health and Human Services said last week.
The WHO recently advised men who have sex with men to reduce their number of sexual partners and reconsider sex with new partners if the epidemic continues. The average patient with monkeypox in the US is around 35 years old, but people of all ages can become infected.
The CDC has registered five cases in children: two in California, two in Indiana, and one non-U.S. child who tested positive in Washington, D.C. The California and Indiana health departments declined to provide details about their children's cases, but Jennifer Rice Epstein, public affairs officer for the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, said the patient at her residence was exposed through close contact. Last week, whites accounted for 37% of U.S. monkeypox cases, followed by Hispanics or Latinos (31%), blacks (27%) and Asians (4%), according to the HHS.