The Biden Administration officially classified Monkeypox as a national public health emergency.
The Department of Health and Human Services made the announcement during a briefing on Thursday (Aug. 4). More than 6600 probable or confirmed cases of the virus have been detected since mid-May, with cases confirmed in all but two states, Montana and Wyoming. CNN reports that this move follows the World Health Organization’s announcement last month that Monkeypox is a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies PHEICs as “an extraordinary event” that constitutes a “public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease” and “to potentially require a coordinated international response.”
Monkeypox, with symptoms including fever, body aches, and notably a rash surrounding the face, hands, feet and genitals, is highly contagious. The majority of cases in the US outbreak have been among gay/bisexual men and those who identify as transgender. However, anyone can contract the virus through close contact.
California, New York, and Illinois have already declared Monkeypox as a public health emergency at the state level, in an effort to free up funding and resources to combat the disease. Earlier this week, President Biden appointed Regional FEMA administrator Robert Fenton as the White House’s national monkeypox response coordinator. Fenton will be responsible for coordinating the federal government’s response to the outbreak. In addition, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, will serve as the deputy coordinator.
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Locally, North Carolina could be closer to reaching a similar conclusion. As reported by The Charlotte Observer, with 69 confirmed cases in North Carolina, the NC Department of Health and Human Services is closely monitoring the outbreak. However, no word on how many cases it would take before Gov. Roy Cooper declares the state emergency.
Testing in NC is currently available for “anyone who has come in contact with infected individuals or anyone who suspects they are experiencing symptoms of monkeypox.” Also, the state recently expanded those who can receive the vaccination to include those who had close contact with an infected person over the last two weeks. The vaccine also expands to gay/bisexual men and trans individuals who had multiple sex partners, contracted an STD, or received PrEP medications within the last 90 days.