US braces for emergency declaration as monkeypox cases surpass 4,600: 5 updates

The U.S. could soon declare monkeypox a public health emergency, according to people familiar with the matter, Politico reported July 27. There have been 4,639 cases confirmed in the U.S. as of July 27. 

Such a declaration would be made by HHS. The agency's secretary, Xavier Becerra, is holding a media update July 28, where the announcement could be made. In a memo sent to the president last week and obtained by The Washington Post, an emergency declaration was described as "a tool that could be used to both align with [the World Health Organization] and raise additional awareness, as well as provide significant justification for HHS to use (though limited) tools that would aid in the response." The WHO declared the outbreak a global emergency July 23. 

Health officials are torn on the value of the U.S. declaring its own public health emergency, with some saying it is necessary to cut through red tape and streamline data collection to better track the virus's spread, while others say it's a mostly symbolic move that would not address vaccine shortages and treatment barriers, according to the Post. Biden administration officials in estimates provided to Congress said the U.S. may need nearly $7 billion to fully address the outbreak. 

Four more updates: 

1. The WHO is advising men who have sex with men to limit sexual partners. The agency's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, during a July 27 update on monkeypox said the "outbreak can be stopped" if steps are taken to "stop transmission and protect vulnerable groups." 

"The best way to do that is to reduce the risk of exposure," Dr. Tedros said. "For men who have sex with men, this includes, for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners, reconsidering sex with new partners, and exchanging contact details with any new partners to enable follow-up if needed." 

Globally, cases have surpassed 18,000 and remain concentrated among men who have sex with men. 

2. The FDA has signed off on an additional 786,000 doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine. Mr. Becerra said HHS is "working to make these doses available to states and jurisdictions as soon as possible." Details on how the shots will be allocated will be announced during the agency's July 28 press conference. The shots had been awaiting FDA sign-off overseas at Bavarian Nordic's manufacturing plant in Denmark. The U.S. has so far distributed about 310,000 doses to states. The U.S. has ordered nearly 7million doses, which are expected to arrive in batches through 2023. 

3. The U.S. has identified its first monkeypox case in a pregnant woman, CBS News reported July 26. The baby has since been delivered and both the mother and baby are "doing well," CDC officials said, adding the baby did not appear to have contracted the disease from their mother during her pregnancy. 

4. The CDC will make monkeypox a nationally codifiable condition, according to Politico. The designation is set to take effect Aug. 1 and would direct state health agencies to share surveillance data, allowing the CDC to better track the virus's spread.

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