The Biden administration on Thursday declared a federal public health emergency for monkeypox as virus outbreaks continue to spread through pockets of the country.
Some 6,600 cases of the virus have been reported this week compared to less than 5,000 last week, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said during a call with reporters Thursday.
“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 said.
Declaring a public health emergency allows federal agencies to access emergency funding and allocate funds and other resources for efforts to stem the virus’ spread. Such declarations also allow for the waiver of some laws or requirements to allow providers to quickly respond to the disease.
The PHE will also raise awareness of the virus “which will encourage clinicians to test for it,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said on the call.
On July 23 the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency over the outbreak.
Monkeypox is a virus similar to smallpox that is transmitted through close contact with an infected person, though it is less contagious and causes less severe illness than smallpox, according to the CDC.
Monkeypox is rarely fatal, according to the CDC.
HHS announced July 28 that it had 1.1 million monkeypox vaccine doses available. More than 600,000 of those doses have been distributed to providers, Becerra said.
Federal agencies are working closely with manufacturers to expand vaccine availability as quickly as possible, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said on the call.
Earlier this week, the White House announced it was tapping two leaders with emergency management and public health backgrounds to lead the nation’s response.
Robert Fenton of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is serving as the White House national monkeypox response coordinator, and Demetre Daskalakis is serving as deputy coordinator, the White House said Tuesday. Daskalakis is currently director of the Centers for Disease Control Division of HIV Prevention.
A PHE will last for the duration of the emergency or 90 days, though it may be extended by the HHS Secretary.