Well, it’s official. Monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency, freeing up federal funds and a coordinated response, including boosting vaccine supply which is currently being outstripped by demand. The designation characterizes the virus—which is transmitted via close physical contact— as a significant risk to all Americans. In fact, the U.S. with upward of 7000 cases, has among the highest rates of monkeypox infection in the world.
“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” said U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra of the virus first identified in the U.S. in May.
The announcement comes 11 days after the World Health Organization declared Monkeypox a global health emergency, signalling the need for a coordinated international response as 19,000 cases have been confirmed in 78 countries.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is rapidly expanding access to hundreds of thousands of doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine for prophylactic use against monkeypox in areas with the highest transmission and need, using a tiered allocation system. Jurisdictions can also request shipments of the ACAM2000 vaccine, which is in much greater supply, but due to significant side effects is not recommended for everyone.
Some experts, however, are not convinced that containment of the outbreak— now reported in every state but two—is possible, though they concede that monkeypox does not spread like COVID.
More than 99 percent of the cases reported have been among men who have sex with men, with sexual contact being the most probable transmission, with cases noticeably spiking in Los Angeles and San Francisco after Pride weekends. However, on Tuesday, the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services confirmed a presumptive case of monkeypox infection in a pediatric resident of Long Beach. Preliminary test results indicate that the child has tested positive for orthopoxvirus. Additional testing will be performed at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to confirm monkeypox.
“This is a reminder,” a city press release stated, “that everyone regardless of age or sexual orientation, can get monkeypox if they come into contact with the virus.
Not only can Monkeypox be spread through sexual intimacy, but health experts say other physical contact can include hugging, kissing, cuddling, holding and feeding, adding that the virus can also spread through contaminated materials, such as cups, bedding, clothing, towels, and utensils.
The most common symptom is a rash, though fever, headaches and lethargy have also been cited. Young children and immunocompromised people, including those living with HIV infection, are at increased risk of severe monkeypox illness.
On Monday, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly J. Mitchell has issued a Proclamation of a Local Emergency for Monkeypox to bolster the County’s response.
Said Mitchell, “This proclamation is critical in helping us get ahead of this virus. By declaring a local emergency, it allows us to cut through the red tape to better dedicate resources and educate residents on how to protect themselves and help stop the spread. It will also allow the County to quickly administer vaccines as more become available and to take the necessary efforts to obtain supplies and enhance outreach and awareness.”
L.A. County residents who suspect they may have monkeypox and wish to get tested can contact their health provider or call 2-1-1 if they don’t have a provider or health insurance.
With the arrival of additional JYNNEOS vaccination doses, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is expanding the criteria to include additional residents at high risk of exposure to monkeypox and launching a pop-up vaccination location in West Hollywood.
Those seeking more information are urged to visit: publichealth.lacounty.gov/monkeypox.