New York declared the monkeypox virus an imminent threat to public health Thursday and announced a big boost in supply of the vaccine used to fight its spread.
Govt. Kathy Hochul said 80,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine are going to New York City, and an additional 30,000 to the rest of the state, courtesy of the federal government.
The hard-to-source vaccine doses will be distributed over the next four to six weeks.
The announcement came as State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett announced she had declared the outbreak an imminent threat to public health. The designation allows local health departments combating the virus to access additional funds for reimbursement once other state and federal funding sources dry up. The move also reflects the rising concern of public health officials about the spread of the disease, particularly in New York City.
As of Thursday, a combined 1,251 people had tested positive for monkeypox in the five boroughs, the city health department said on Twitter. Statewide, there have been 1,341 confirmed cases, according to the state health department. Nationwide, some 4,900 cases have been reported, though many public health officials believe the actual number is higher.
“With more than one-quarter of all cases in the US, New Yorkers, and especially our LGBTQ+ community, remain among the hardest-hit,” Hochul said. “We will continue to advocate to the federal government for our fair share of vaccines based on the disease burden impacting New York.”
The World Health Organization on Saturday declared the monkeypox outbreak a global emergency, with more than 16,000 cases reported across 74 countries. The White House has announced a series of steps to fight the viral disease; it has not declared the outbreak an emergency.
In New York, Health Commissioner Bassett said, the declaration “means that local health departments engaged in response and prevention activities will be able to access additional State reimbursement, after other Federal and State funding sources are maximized, to protect all New Yorkers and ultimately limit the spread of monkeypox in our communities.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as smallpox, but milder and rarely fatal. Symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle aches, and a rash resembling pimples or blisters, appearing on the face, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body.
It can spread from person-to-person through direct contact with an infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids, and through respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, such as during “kissing, cuddling, or sex,” according to the CDC. It also can be transmitted by touching items, such as clothing and linens, that came in contact with the infectious rash or bodily fluids.