The US government declared a nationwide public health emergency on 4 August following the rapid growth of monkeypox cases – over 1,200 cases in the preceding three days alone. The declaration comes after a statement made by the World Health Organization in July calling on countries to consider monkeypox to be a public health emergency of international concern.
According to officials, the number of patients in the US now exceeds 9,490 which accounts for 25% of the confirmed cases worldwide. By declaring the emergency, Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said the government plans to mobilize resources and fight the outbreak which has spread rapidly since officials confirmed the first case in May of this year. White House national monkeypox response coordinator, Robert Fenton, echoed this saying:
“This public health emergency will allow us to explore additional strategies to get vaccines and treatments out more quickly to the impacted communities. And it will allow us to get more data from jurisdictions, so we can effectively track and attack this outbreak.”
Fig.1. Total confirmed monkeypox cases in the US
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the total number of cases may be higher than reported as the infection can only be confirmed after a patient develops a rash. This means that a person is tested for the virus only after a week or sometimes more after infection. While monkeypox is rarely fatal and the US has as yet not reported any deaths related to the virus, eight people have already passed away globally due to the current outbreak. Fatal cases have mainly been registered in Africa with Spain and Brazil recording one case each.
While so far the federal government has managed to supply over 600,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine and the US Department of Health and Human Services has made 786,000 doses available for the local authorities, the country is still experiencing a significant shortage of vaccines. Officials expect to receive another 800,000 doses in the coming weeks and 150,000 jabs are scheduled to reach the US in September. Overall, the government has already ordered over 5 million extra doses which are expected to be received by mid-2023. Currently, around 80,000 individuals are being tested weekly across the states as officials have installed additional labs to undertake this procedure.
Although around 98% of the infected population are identified as being men who have had sex with men, the CDC states that anyone is at risk if they are in close contact with an infected person. The federal authorities have already identified around 1.6 million people at the highest risk of monkeypox across the states. Tom Inglesby, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said:
“We need to have everybody aware of what this disease looks like — and everybody aware that they need to be testing for it. Or we’re going to continue to have invisible chains of transmission.”