New York officials declared monkeypox an imminent threat to public health on Thursday as the number of cases in the Empire State surpassed 1,000, more than a third of the total number recorded across the United States.
Dr. Mary Bassett, the state commissioner of health, made the declaration just days after the World Health Organization issued a health alert and as the Biden administration is reportedly expected to announce a public health emergency for the virus.
“Based on the ongoing spread of this virus, which has increased rapidly and affected primarily communities that identify as men who have sex with men, and the need for local jurisdictions to administer vaccines, I’ve declared monkeypox an Imminent Threat to Public Health throughout New York State,” Bassett said in a statement.
The declaration allows local health departments engaged in response-and-prevention activities to access additional state reimbursement funds after other federal and state funding sources are maximized, Bassett added.
As of Thursday, of the 3,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the U.S., 1,148 were in New York, according to the New York Times. Experts estimate the true number of infections is much larger.
The state is struggling to obtain enough vaccines to distribute, with demand far outstripping supply. The federal government has provided New York City, where most of the cases have been recorded, with 25,963 doses of the vaccine received from the federal government, according to Politico. The White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, Ashish Jha, said Wednesday that in New York City, there are currently only enough first doses of the vaccine to cover just half of the at-risk population.
On the West Coast, San Francisco declared a local public health emergency on Wednesday. The declaration is a “legal action that will mobilize City resources, accelerate emergency planning, streamline staffing, coordinate agencies across the city, allow for future reimbursement by the state and federal governments and raise awareness throughout San Francisco about how everyone can stop the spread of Monkeypox in our community,” a statement from the mayor’s office said.
Monkeypox, discovered decades ago and now reaching places across the globe in outbreaks, can spread through skin-to-skin contact — though primarily through intimate contact. Symptoms include headaches, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and rashes, which culminate in painful lesions that typically last from two to four weeks, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Though anyone can get the disease, nearly all cases are in gay or bisexual men, according to health officials. Data from New York City found that nearly 98% of cases were in men, with just 1.4% identifying as straight.
The Biden administration is expected to announce a public health emergency for monkeypox within the next couple of days, according to sources speaking with Politico.