California, New York and Illinois declare outbreak an emergency

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) speaks with reporters after a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, at the United States Capitol, Friday, July 15, 2022.

tom williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday declared a state of emergency following the rapid spread of the monkeypox outbreak, the third U.S. state to do so in days.

Newsom said the emergency declaration would help support the state’s vaccination efforts. Demand for vaccines has exceeded supply as infections rise. Staff at sexual health clinics and other sites struggled to keep up with the influx of people seeking vaccinations.

California is mobilizing personnel from its emergency medical services to help administer the vaccines. Newsom said the state is working at all levels of government to slow the spread through testing, contract research and community outreach.

California’s declaration comes after Illinois declared a public health emergency earlier Monday. New York declared a state disaster emergency in response to Friday night’s outbreak.

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 three largest cities in the country – have reported 47% of all confirmed monkeypox infections in the United States. New York is the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, with nearly 1,400 cases confirmed as of Monday.

The Biden administration is considering whether to declare a public health emergency in the United States, according to senior federal health officials. This would help mobilize resources for state health officials battling the outbreak. The last time the United States declared a public health emergency was in response to Covid-19 in January 2020.

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.

Monkeypox is transmitted primarily through skin-to-skin contact during sexual intercourse. Gay and bisexual men are currently most at risk of infection, according to public health officials. About 98% of patients who provided demographic information to clinics identified themselves as men who have sex with men, according to the CDC.

Although men who have sex with men are currently most at risk, health officials have pointed out that anyone who catches monkeypox through physical contact with someone who has the rash that characterizes the virus or contaminated materials such as towels and sheets.

Monkeypox can also be spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person has sores in their mouth, but this requires prolonged face-to-face interaction, according to the CDC. Physical contact is the main mode of transmission, according to health officials.

This is breaking news. Please check for updates.