(audio above: monkeypox and sexual health expert Dr. Sam shares information about the monkeypox virus, as well as HIV advice and other sexual health tips)
The US government has declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency following a recent surge in cases.
The US currently has the most confirmed cases in the world, with at least 6,616 known infections confirmed by the CDC.
The official declaration (announced August 4) is designed to help speed up the distribution of vaccines, treatments and federal resources to try and curb the spread of the virus and to trigger extra assets to combat the outbreak, as the US health secretary urges ‘every American to take it seriously’.
The move in status is also intended to improve cooperation between federal government and individual states, allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, more authority in terms of financial distribution and resources, triggering more grant funding, which should result in increased testing as well as wider vaccine availability.
JUST IN – HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra declares #monkeypox a public health emergency in the United States. pic.twitter.com/FUS1CNbgaW
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) August 4, 2022
“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously and to take responsibility to help us tackle this virus,” Becerra said during a briefing announcing the declaration.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, said the declaration will provide resources and increase access to care, noting that the U.S. is currently only using around 10% its of available testing capacity.
In recent weeks, an average of only about 8,000 tests for monkeypox have been carried out per week.
She also said it will expand the CDC’s capacity to share data.
Several states – including New York, which accounts for a quarter of US cases – have already declared states of emergency to release state funds to help control the outbreak.
The two states with the next highest caseloads – California and Illinois – also declared states of emergency earlier this week.
The Biden administration has faced some blowback for not responding faster to the outbreak, with access to vaccines being a consistent problem as the number of US monkeypox cases continued to rise.
Unlike with COVID, we have the benefit of pre-existing vaccines which can be used to prevent monkeypox, such as an antiviral drug called TPOXX, which is approved for treating smallpox but may also be effective against monkeypox since the two viruses belong to the same family.
But treatments of all vaccine options are in short supply across the country and many who have tried to get the vaccine have reported waiting in long lines only to be told there isn’t enough to treat everyone.
The mayor of San Francisco, which introduced a public health state of emergency on Monday (August 1), referenced the HIV/Aids crisis in the 1980s and how the city and its residents were ignored during a time while people were getting very sick, commenting: “We are in a very scary place”.
Biden said of the upgrade in status: “I remain committed to our monkeypox response: ramping-up vaccine distribution, expanding testing, and educating at-risk communities. That’s why today’s public health emergency declaration on the virus is critical to confronting this outbreak with the urgency it warrants.”
I remain committed to our monkeypox response: ramping-up vaccine distribution, expanding testing, and educating at-risk communities.
That’s why today’s public health emergency declaration on the virus is critical to confronting this outbreak with the urgency it warrants.
— President Biden (@POTUS) August 4, 2022
But then Biden has also faced criticism from far-right politicians, so it seems he can’t win whatever he does.
‘Don’t Say Gay’ champion, pronoun denier and Governor of Florida, which had 525 monkeypox infections as of Tuesday (August 2), Ron DeSantis attempted to downplay reasonable concern over the outbreak on Wednesday, and accused politicians and media outlets of over-exaggerating the severity of the virus.
He then compared it to some supposed fearmongering that took place over COVID-19 – the cause of 6,409,680 deaths globally to date.
At one point he even told viewers “do not listen to their nonsense, accusing politicians taking action to combat the virus of “trying to scare” American’s.
THE most idiotic thing we have heard from the far-right in, well, at least a few hours.
RON DESANTIS ON MONKEYPOX: “Do not listen to their nonsense. I am so sick of politicians, and we saw this with COVID, trying to sow fear into the population.” pic.twitter.com/TOHtorjxLh
— Florida’s Voice (@FLVoiceNews) August 3, 2022
Data from the CDC shows more than 26,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide this year.
Some public health experts have voiced concern that upgrading the outbreak’s status to that of an official public health emergency could further add to stigma around the virus and how people respond to it, which is reasonable given some of the
stupidity rhetoric being spewed by far-right government officials.
The reason for that is because, so far, the infections have disproportionately affected queer men.
Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection, but it can be passed on to through very close contact, which would typically, obviously, occur during sex.
Monkeypox is not a ‘gay disease’
While queer men have been disproportionately affected by Monkeypox in its first regional instances, ANYONE can get monkeypox if you have had close contact with someone carrying the virus.
Health officials in most countries have both condemned and urged against reporting of the monkeypox virus that could be seen as racist and homophobic in nature, warning of adding fuel to unnecessary stigma which undermines the response effort and, unsurprisingly, can trigger homophobia or racism.
Officials in the US and other parts of the world have recommended that those at the highest risk of exposure – including some gay and bisexual men, as well as some healthcare workers – should get vaccinated on a priority basis with one of the two available vaccines.
The White House earlier this week announced the appointment of a specialist team assembled to oversee the national monkeypox response.
BREAKING: U.S. officials plan to declare monkeypox a public health emergency, as cases top 6,600 nationwide, two sources familiar with the matter tell NBC News. pic.twitter.com/94DjcNUU6v
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 4, 2022
In the audio links below, monkeypox expert Dr. Sam busts open the myths around the virus, as well as dispensing important information about HIV and shares his top sexual health tips. The information contained is mostly not location specific and is helpful no matter where you are.