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WHO declared monkeypox a ‘PHEIC’ in July; Now the U.S. is officially declaring it a ‘PHE’

Biden-Harris Administration bolsters monkeypox response

By Julia Dudley Najieb

In this Black Headline World News Report, news producer, Julia Dudley Najieb, reviews the world, national and state governments declaring a public health emergency concerning the monkepox virus spread.

Dudley Najieb revisits an Ethnic Media Services briefing from this summer that featured two medical experts and a virologist who explain the monkeypox virus in detail, along with dispelling myths that this disease is only relative to LGBTQ communities.

On July 23, the World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared the escalating global monkeypox outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC). Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Xavier Becerra announced this week that he will declare the ongoing spread of monkeypox virus in the United States a Public Health Emergency (PHE).

Under the International Health Regulations, WHO’s Dr. Ghebreyesus is required to consider five elements in deciding whether an outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.

“First, the information provided by countries – which in this case shows that this virus has spread rapidly to many countries that have not seen it before,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus. “Second, the three criteria for declaring a public health emergency of international concern, which have been met ; third, the advice of the Emergency Committee, which has not reached consensus; fourth, scientific principles, evidence and other relevant information – which are currently insufficient and leave us with many unknowns and fifth, the risk to human health, international spread, and the potential for interference with international traffic.”

Dr. Ghebreyesus said the WHO’s assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region where they assess the risk as high.

On the other hand, the United States under the Biden-Harris Administration intends to get ahead of the virus after witnessing the setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic national response.

The announcement comes on the heels of President Biden appointing Robert Fenton of the Federal Emergency Management Agency as White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as White House National Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator.

“Ending the monkeypox outbreak is a critical priority for the Biden-Harris Administration. We are taking our response to the next level by declaring a public health emergency,” said Secretary Becerra. “With today’s declaration we can further strengthen and accelerate our response further.”

“President Biden has called on us to explore every option on the table to combat the monkeypox outbreak and protect communities at risk,” said White House National Monkeypox Response Co-ordinator Robert Fenton. “We are applying lessons learned from the battles we’ve fought – from COVID response to wildfires to measles, and will tackle this outbreak with the urgency this moment demands.”

The Biden-Harris administration said the PHE declaration is in concert with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) work to explore new strategies that could help get vaccines to affected communities across the country, including using new dose sparing approach that could increase the number of doses available, up to five-fold.

The public health emergency also carries important implications for data sharing with the federal government.

Fifty-one jurisdictions have already signed data use agreements that will provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with information related to vaccine administration. Declaring the outbreak an emergency may provide the justification that the remaining jurisdictions need to sign their agreements. Additionally, it provides authorities to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to collect testing and hospitalization data.

According to NPR, governors in California, New York and Illinois have already declared state of emergencies in response to the monkeypox outbreak. Some cities, including New York City and San Francisco, have also made their own emergency declarations.

As of this week, HHS has shipped more than 602,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine to states and jurisdictions, an increase of 266,000 in the past week. HHS has allocated 1.1 million doses to states and jurisdictions in total and is making more doses available as jurisdictions use their current supply.

HHS also announced that it has accelerated the delivery of an additional 150,000 doses to arrive in the U.S. next month. The doses, which were slated to arrive in November will now arrive in the U.S. in September.

In an Ethnic Media Services (EMS) briefing this summer, two medical experts and a virologist explained the intricate details about the virus, expelling any myths and misinformation concerning the virus being only relative to the LGBTQ communities: Dr. William Schaffner, Dr. Ben Neuman and Dr. Gregg Gonsalves.

In the world news report on Black Headline News, Dudley Najieb recapped on the EMS briefing, which highlighted the most common method of contact the virus is being transmitted through, as well as who is at risk of getting the virus. The three experts further dispelled the myth that the monkeypox is only a significant risk if one is a part of the LGBT communities–this is a false notion.

Dr. William Schaffner
Dr. William Schaffner

Dr. William Schaffner is Professor of Preventive Medicine in the Department of Health Policy as well as Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee. After graduating from Yale in 1957, Schaffner attended the University of Freiburg, Germany as a Fulbright Scholar. He graduated from Cornell University Medical College in 1962 and completed residency training and a Fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt.

Dr. Ben Neuman
Dr. Ben Neuman

Dr. Ben Neuman is the Chief Virologist at the Global Health Research Complex at Texas A&M University, having joined the Department in 2021. He received his B.S. from the University of Toledo in Biology, his Ph.D. from the University of Reading (UK), and his Animal and Microbial Sciences Postdoctoral Research at the Scripps Research Institute, Virology.

Dr. Gregg Gonsalves
Dr. Gregg Gonsalves

Dr. Gregg Gonsalves is an expert in policy modeling on infectious disease and substance use, as well as the intersection of public policy and health equity. His research focuses on the use of quantitative models for improving the response to epidemic diseases. For more than 30 years, he worked on HIV/AIDS and other global health issues with several organizations, including the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, the Treatment Action Group, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa. He was also a fellow at the Open Society Foundations and in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School from 2011-2012. He is a 2011 graduate of Yale College and received his PhD from Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences/School of Public Health in 2017. He is currently the public health correspondent for The Nation. He is a 2018 MacArthur Fellow.

NOTE: Story updates on 8-6-22 to include specific information from the California Department of Health concerning monkeypox symptoms, preventions and precautions.

About Monkeypox

Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus belongs to the Ortho-poxvirus genus which includes the variola (smallpox) virus as well as the vaccinia virus, which is used in the smallpox vaccine. Monkeypox is of public health concern because the illness is similar to smallpox and can be spread from infected humans, animals, and materials contaminated with the virus. Monkeypox is less transmissible and usually less severe than smallpox.

Monkeypox was first identified in 1958 and occurs primarily in Central and West African countries. Historically, monkeypox cases have rarely occurred in the U.S. and had mostly been related to international travel or importation of animals. There is a recent significant increase in reported cases where monkeypox is not commonly seen, including in Europe, Canada, the United States and California.

Symptoms

Monkeypox might start with symptoms like the flu, with fever, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and general body aches. Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, the person can develop a rash or sores. The sores will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing. They can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful and itchy.

The rash or sores may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butt) but could also be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, and face. They may also be limited to one part of the body.

People with monkeypox may experience all or only a few of these symptoms. Most with monkeypox will develop the rash or sores. Some people have reported developing a rash or sores before (or without) the flu-like symptoms. Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until all sores have healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This can take several weeks.

Transmission

Monkeypox spreads primarily through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids, including during sex, as well as activities like kissing, hugging, massaging, and cuddling. Monkeypox can spread through touching materials used by a person with monkeypox that haven’t been cleaned, such as clothing and bedding. It can also spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, close, face-to-face contact.

Monkeypox can be spread through:

  • Direct skin-skin contact with rash lesions
  • Sexual/intimate contact, including kissing
  • Living in a house and sharing a bed with someone
  • Sharing towels or unwashed clothing
  • Respiratory secretions through prolonged face-to-face interactions (the type that mainly happen when living with someone or caring for someone who has monkeypox)

Monkeypox is NOT spread through:

  • Casual brief conversations
  • Walking by someone with monkeypox, like in a grocery store

Prevention

There are number of ways to prevent the spread of monkeypox, including:

  • Always talking to your sexual partner/s about any recent illness and being aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on your body or your partner’s body, including on the genitals and anus
  • Avoiding close contact, including sex, with people with symptoms like sores or rashes
  • Practicing good hand hygiene
  • People who become infected should isolate until their symptoms are improving or have gone away completely. Rash should always be well covered until completely healed.
  • Using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) (like a mask, gown, and gloves) when caring for others with symptoms
  • Avoiding contact with infected materials contaminated with the virus
  • Avoiding contact with infected animals
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