New York state declares monkeypox an 'imminent threat to public health'

The declaration will aid the state's response amid a rapid increase in cases.

July 28, 2022, 7:22 PM

New York state's health commissioner declared monkeypox an "imminent threat to public health" on Thursday amid a rapid increase in cases.

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," Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in a statement.

The United States has one of the highest levels of monkeypox in the world, with over 4,900 confirmed cases as of Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York has the highest number of cases out of any state reporting those figures, CDC data shows.

PHOTO: Healthcare workers with New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene help people register for the monkeypox vaccine at one of the City's vaccination sites, on July 26, 2022, in New York.
Healthcare workers with New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene help people register for the monkeypox vaccine at one of the City's vaccination sites, on July 26, 2022, in New York.
Mary Altaffer/AP

There are 1,341 confirmed monkeypox cases in New York as of Thursday, according to state data.

San Francisco declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Thursday, effective Aug. 1, which will also help expedite resources to better respond to the "rapidly rising cases," city officials said. The city has reported 261 cases of monkeypox.

"We need to be prepared and this declaration will allow us to serve the city better," San Francisco Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said in a statement. "Our COVID-19 response has taught us that it is imperative that we mobilize city resources. The declaration helps us ensure we have all the tools available to augment our outreach, testing and treatment, especially to the LGBTQ+ [community] who remain at highest risk for monkeypox."

The Biden administration continues to weigh whether monkeypox should be declared a public health emergency, federal health officials said on Thursday.

"We continue to monitor the response throughout the country on monkeypox," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters Thursday.

"We will weigh any decision on declaring a public health emergency based on the response we're seeing throughout the country. The bottom line is: We need to stay ahead of this and be able to end this outbreak," he continued.

Last week, the World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. Globally, more than 20,000 cases have been reported in over 75 countries, including in dozens that have not historically reported monkeypox cases.

U.S. health officials have warned for weeks that the number of monkeypox cases would likely increase nationwide, as the government ramps up testing capacity and surveillance.

"We know monkeypox symptoms usually start within three weeks of exposure to the virus, so we anticipate we may see an increase in cases throughout the month of July and into August," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a press briefing earlier this month.

Monkeypox is primarily spread through close, physical contact between people. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. Patients can develop a rash and lesions that often begin on the face before spreading to the rest of the body.

Most cases in the U.S. have been reported among the gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men community and related to male-to-male sexual contact. Though health officials have repeatedly stressed that the virus can affect anyone who has close contact with people who have monkeypox. Those with weakened immune systems, pregnant people and children under the age of 8 may be at heightened risk for severe outcomes, according to the CDC.

"Every American should pay attention on monkeypox," Becerra said. "Monkeypox is not COVID, but it is contagious. It is painful and can be dangerous."

ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.

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