US declares national health emergency over monkeypox

Washington, Aug 4 (EFE).- The US government on Thursday declared a nationwide public health emergency over the outbreak of monkeypox in numerous states, a situation that has resulted in thousands of cases although, so far, no deaths.

“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,” Health Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters in a telephone briefing.

The declaration of the emergency will allow federal agencies to gain access to emergency funding and will facilitate the preparation of vaccines and treatments to deal with the virus.

It will also spur efforts to raise public awareness and provide information about monkeypox, which – according to authorities – are essential in limiting the number of infections even as the number of cases is growing rapidly around the country.

At the beginning of this week, the White House announced the creation of a response group to deal with the spread of the monkeypox virus after being criticized for its slowness in buying vaccines and providing treatment for those who have already become infected with the painful and potentially fatal disease that causes large sores or blisters on the body.

In fact, Food and Drug Administration chief Robert Califf announced that his office has identified a potential solution to alleviate the lack of enough vaccine to treat the potential number of cases in the coming days and weeks while authorities are preparing additional doses.

The solution would consist of administering one-fifth of a dose subcutaneously, and Califf said that this would allow health workers to use a single vial of vaccine – containing one “full” dose – to treat five patients without any loss of effectiveness or increased risk.

Last week, health authorities announced that more than 1 million doses of vaccines against monkeypox could be placed at the disposal of states in the coming days, of which 600,000 already have been delivered, Becerra announced on Thursday.

In addition, authorities hope to receive another 150,000 doses in September and additional doses in October and November.

So far, the US has registered more than 6,500 cases of monkeypox, a figure a good bit higher than the 4,600 registered as of last week.

The national emergency declaration will also obligate the states to share health information about monkeypox with federal authorities, which will facilitate the response to the emergency, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) chief, Rochelle Walensky, said.

The World Health Organization two weeks ago declared an international health emergency over the outbreak of monkeypox after more than 16,000 cases were detected in 75 countries, many of them the victims being Europeans.

Several people had already died from the virus before the WHO declared the worldwide emergency.

Walensky said that the groups at greatest risk and the main targets of the vaccination campaign are, respectively, men who have sexual relations with other men and who have the HIV virus and males who at greater risk of contracting AIDS.

The total number of people at risk – in these two categories – of contracting the virus is between 1.6 million and 1.7 million at this time, Walensky said.

To date, the great majority of cases detected in the US, as well as in other countries, are among men who have had sex with other men, although the disease can be transmitted to anyone.

US health authorities have warned that it is most probable that the number of monkeypox cases will increase in the coming days and thus it is important for people to be aware of the problem and for health centers to know that sufficient vaccine reserves and treatment measures are on hand so that the outbreak can be kept under control.

EFE jdg/ssa/eat/bp

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