On Thursday, August 4, the Biden administration declared monkeypox a national health emergency. The virus, which creates painful smallpox-like lesions on the skin and other flu-like symptoms, has infected more than 6,000 Americans since the first case in May 2022. The World Health Organization has declared smallpox monkey a global health emergency last month.
The virus is spreading rapidly, with 10 times more cases in the United States than the 700 reported less than a month ago. There are currently 577 cases in Florida. As of July 31, there was one case in Sarasota County.
The new national health emergency will give federal agencies the power to direct funds towards vaccines, drug treatments and additional workers to help manage the outbreak. The Jynneos vaccine, which was developed to fight smallpox, is now given for monkeypox. However, the supply of 20 million doses that the United States had hidden away for less than a decade expired in May.
Due to the limited supply of Jynneos, the Food and Drug Administration is exploring a strategy to increase the number of doses available by delivering one-fifth of the dose into the skin layers rather than the fat underneath (the typical method) . This could help vaccinate more people.
Tests for monkeypox have also been difficult to obtain, making it difficult to determine an accurate case count. As of June 2022, five commercial labs offer monkeypox testing: Aegis Science, Labcorp, Mayo Clinic Laboratories, Quest Diagnostics, and Sonic Healthcare. Availability varies by state.
The medicine tecovirimat can be used to treat people who are already infected with monkeypox. Doctors currently have to request the drug, making rapid distribution difficult. Tecovrimat is an antiviral medicine approved for the treatment of smallpox which, according to the New England Journal of Medicinewill undergo a randomized controlled trial in the United States by the National Institute of Health to evaluate its safety and effectiveness against monkeypox.
The Centers for Disease Control, however, has access to an Investigational New Drug protocol that allows the drug to be used for the primary or early empiric treatment of monkeypox in children and adults of all ages.
Symptoms of monkeypox include a rash of extremely painful lesions on the hands, feet, chest, face or mouth, and genitals, respiratory symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, and fever or muscle aches. Although no deaths have been reported in the United States – monkeypox is much less contagious and much less likely to be fatal than Covid – the number of cases is expected to rise as the virus continues to spread.
According The New York Times, the national health emergency will last 90 days, but may be extended. However, this does not grant the Food and Drug Administration emergency clearance for vaccines, tests, or treatments.
“[The declaration] should help galvanize more testing and raise awareness among health care providers, especially in places outside of major cities where the level of attention to it has been far less,” Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Told The New York Times.