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Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Thursday said he was declaring a public health emergency over the monkeypox outbreak.
“In light of evolving circumstances on the ground, I am declaring a public health emergency on #monkeypox,” Becerra said in a statement. “We are prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously.”
Later Thursday, President Biden tweeted he remained “committed to our monkeypox response: ramping-up vaccine distribution, expanding testing, and educating at-risk communities.”
“That’s why today’s public health emergency declaration on the virus is critical to confronting this outbreak with the urgency it warrants,” Biden said.
The monkeypox outbreak has infected more than 6,600 Americans. The emergency declaration frees up federal money and other resources to fight the virus, which may cause fever, body aches, chills, fatigue and pimple-like bumps on many parts of the body. A public health emergency can be extended, similar to what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The White House said it has made more than 1.1 million vaccine doses available and helped boost domestic diagnostic capacity to 80,000 tests per week.
Last week, the World Health Organization called monkeypox a public health emergency, with cases in more than 70 countries. A global emergency is the WHO’s highest level of alert, but the designation does not necessarily mean a disease is particularly transmissible or lethal.
California, Illinois and New York have all made declarations in the last week, as have New York City, San Francisco and San Diego County.
The monkeypox virus spreads through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact as well as sharing bedding, towels and clothing. Health officials have emphasized that the virus can infect anyone, but the people who have gotten sick so far have been primarily men who have sex with men.
Earlier this week, the Biden administration named top officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to serve as the White House coordinators to combat the monkeypox outbreak.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.