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Biden administration declares monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency in the U.S.

  • August 05, 2022

Lawmakers in Congress and local communities have criticized the pace of the federal government’s response, but Becerra said last week that HHS has done everything it can to ramp up resources to fight the outbreak. The health secretary said states need to do more to prevent transmission, and Congress needs to pass funding to support the response to the outbreak.

The largest outbreaks in the U.S. are in New York, California, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, Texas and D.C. New York, Illinois and California declared state emergencies before the federal declaration.

Public health officials are concerned that the virus could start to spread more within households across the broader population as infections rise. Though physical contact during sex is the primary mode of transmission right now, people can also catch monkeypox through hugging, kissing, and contaminated towels and bedsheets.

The CDC last month confirmed the first U.S. cases of monkeypox in children, a toddler in California and an infant whose family was traveling in D.C. The infant’s family is not U.S. residents. The children have symptoms but are in good health and are receiving the antiviral treatment tecovirimat, according to the CDC. The young kids likely caught the virus through transmission within their family, according to the CDC. 

Monkeypox can also spread through respiratory droplets when people have lesions in their mouth, but this requires prolonged face-to-face interaction, according to the CDC. Health officials do not believe monkeypox is spreading through small aerosol particles like Covid. Respiratory droplets are heavier so they do not stay airborne for as long, while Covid is an airborne virus, which is one of the reasons it is so contagious.

Monkeypox typically began with symptoms similar to the flu and then progressed into a painful rash that can spread over the body. But symptoms in the current outbreak have been unusual. Some people are developing a rash first, while others get a rash without any flulike symptoms at all. Many people have a localized lesions on the genitals or anus, according to public health officials.

Patients typically recover in two to four weeks without additional medical treatment, according to the CDC. But some people are admitted to the hospital because the rash is so painful.

In 2003, the U.S. had a small monkeypox outbreak with dozens of confirmed and probable cases across six states. The people fell ill after contact with pet prairie dogs. The pets were infected after they were housed near small mammals imported from Ghana. The U.S. outbreak in 2003 was the first time monkeypox was reported outside Africa, according to the CDC.

Public health authorities are also worried that as monkeypox spreads in the U.S., the virus could become established in animal populations which would make the virus even harder to eliminate from the country.

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