Biden administration declares monkeypox a public heath emergency

Xavier Becerra.
(Image credit: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Biden administration on Thursday declared a national health emergency over the ongoing monkeypox outbreak.

The declaration from Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra will unlock both emergency funding and access for federal agencies working to contain the spread and develop treatments, The New York Times reports. The move might also serve to appease clamoring activisits and public heath experts who have been pressuring President Biden to mount a more aggressive response to the outbreak.

"We're prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously," Becerra said Thursday.

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A smallpox-like virus that causes painful lesions on the face and body, monkeypox was first detected in the U.K. back in May. As of Aug. 3, there are now 6,617 confirmed cases in the U.S., per data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California, Illinois, and New York have each declared states of emergency over the outbreak.

"This public health emergency will allow us to explore additional strategies to get vaccines and treatments more quickly out in the affected communities," said newly-appointed Monkeypox Response Coordinator Robert Fenton Jr."And it will allow us to get more data from jurisdictions so we can effectively track and attack this outbreak."

Officials also said Thursday that they were working to increase access to the only FDA-approved vaccine amid shortages, per The Washington Post.

For its part, the World Heath Orgainzation declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern on July 23.

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