The monkeypox virus has spread quickly through the US. Is it too late to stop it?
On Monday, Los Angeles became the third city in the US to declare monkeypox a public health emergency, alongside New York City and San Francisco. New York, Illinois, and California, three states containing the nation’s most populous cities, had already declared themselves in a public health emergency vis-a-vis monkeypox. And the WHO declared it a public health emergency two weeks ago. The emergency measures are aimed at boosting states’ efforts to battle the pox virus, including increasing access to vaccinations (which are currently in very short supplies globally), as well as providing a more well-rounded response from the government.
On Tuesday, President Biden announced the creation of a new government task force to address the growing monkeypox threat, including a response coordinator from FEMA and a deputy coordinator from the CDC. These emergency government measures are meant to assist in making the vaccine available to those groups identified at higher risk, as well as increased availability of tests and possible new treatments.
There were 5,189 cases of monkeypox confirmed in the US by the CDC as of Monday, most of them limited to Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. There has been a weekly doubling in the number of cases seen in places such as San Francisco in the past two weeks, which is what has health authorities on edge. WHO Director-General Tedros described it this way: “we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little.”
Precious little is known about the virus’ transmission, and even less about how the general public should respond. While much of the US remains complacent to the virus, there is an ever-increasing and alarming tenor to the tone doctors and health officials around the country are sounding.