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New York state declares monkeypox an imminent threat; San Francisco issues state of emergency over virus

The World Health Organization designated the disease a public health emergency of international concern over the weekend.

Public health agencies for New York state and San Francisco issued monkeypox declarations Thursday to try to cope with the continued spread of the virus.

Monkeypox has been declared an imminent threat to public health in New York as infections continue to rise, Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the state health commissioner, announced.

“This 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," Bassett said in a statement announcing the move.

And San Francisco declared a state of emergency, noting that 261 people had confirmed or probable monkeypox infections as of Wednesday.

Dr. Susan Philip, the city's health officer, said the order would allow flexibility as experts anticipate wider community spread. San Francisco has received 8,200 doses of the Jynneos vaccine, intended to prevent monkeypox and smallpox infections.

“San Francisco showed during COVID that early action is essential for protecting public health,” said Mayor London Breed in a statement announcing the declaration. 

“We know that this virus impacts everyone equally — but we also know that those in our LGBTQ community are at greater risk right now. Many people in our LGBTQ community are scared and frustrated. This local emergency will allow us to continue to support our most at-risk, while also better preparing for what’s to come.”  

People stand in long lines to receive the monkeypox vaccine
People stand in long lines to receive the monkeypox vaccine at San Francisco General Hospital in San Francisco in July 12.Jessica Christian / San Francisco Chronicle via AP file

Anyone who has been in close contact with a monkeypox patient can get infected, but since the start of the outbreak, cases have been largely concentrated among men who have sex with men.

The World Health Organization designated the disease a public health emergency of international concern over the weekend.

Monkeypox is a specific poxvirus that was discovered among laboratory monkeys in 1958. The first monkeypox case in a human was diagnosed in 1970.

The current outbreak has manifested in symptoms of rashes and lesions across the body, including on the face, on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, and in the genital or anal regions.

Cases typically last two to four weeks, and people may also develop flulike symptoms.

The disease is spread through close physical contact, so public health officials advise against skin-to-skin contact with anyone who exhibits symptoms.

Monkeypox cases have been reported this year in 71 countries where the disease has not historically been reported, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. has recorded 4,906 cases this year, according to CDC data as of Thursday.

Thousands of cases have also been reported in the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany.

Jynneos is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a two-dose vaccine taken four weeks apart. The vaccine may prevent monkeypox if it is given within four days of exposure or at least ease symptoms if it is given within 14 days.

San Francisco has said it will prioritize vaccines for men and trans people who have sex with men. New York has acquired 60,000 doses, although eligibility and distribution are decided on a local level.