Biden appoints team to manage US response to monkeypox as outbreak grows

Oakland Park resident Duane Rinde, 57, receives the Monkeypox vaccine administered by nurse practitioner Joel Ramos at Latinos Salud in Wilton Manors, Fla., Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Al-Diaz | Miami Herald | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday appointed a team of disaster management and health officials to lead the US response to the monkeypox outbreak as infections continue to rise.

Biden named Robert Fenton, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to lead US efforts to quell the outbreak. Fenton currently leads the FEMA region which includes California, one of the states hardest hit by monkeypox.

The president has named Demetre Daskalakis, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of HIV prevention, as deputy U.S. coordinator for the monkeypox response. Daskalakis is an expert on health issues affecting the LGBTQ community, the White House said.

Fenton and Daskalakis will work with state and local authorities to ensure they have enough tests, vaccines and antiviral treatments to fight the virus, according to the White House. They will also help with efforts to educate the public about how the virus is spreading.

The United States has reported nearly 6,000 cases of monkeypox in 48 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The outbreak has spread rapidly since Boston health authorities confirmed the first US case in May.

California, Illinois and New York, home to the country’s three largest cities, are the hardest hit states. The governors of the three states have declared emergencies in response to the epidemic.

The pace of the federal effort to contain the outbreak has come under criticism from lawmakers in Congress and local communities. But Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said last week that the federal government had done all it could to increase resources.

The United States has delivered more than 330,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine so far, and HHS on Friday offered an additional 786,0000 doses to state and local authorities. Demand for vaccines has exceeded supply as the outbreak grows, leading to long lines at clinics and protests in some cities.

Gay and bisexual men are currently most at risk of infection, although public health officials have repeatedly stressed that anyone can catch monkeypox through close physical contact with someone who has a skin rash due to illness or contact with contaminated materials such as towels and sheets. .

Monkeypox is rarely fatal and no deaths have been reported in the United States so far. But some patients suffer excruciating pain from the rash caused by the virus. About 10% of all patients with the virus are hospitalized because of pain and to isolate themselves from others, World Health Organization officials said last week. Monkeypox is mainly spread through skin-to-skin contact during sex right now.

CNBC Health and Science

Read CNBC’s latest global health coverage: