California, New York and Illinois declare outbreak a public health emergency

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) speaks to reporters after meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, California, at the US Capitol on Friday, July 15, 2022.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency over a rapidly spreading monkeypox outbreak on Monday, becoming the third US state to do so in a matter of days.

Newsom said declaring a state of emergency would help support the state’s vaccination efforts. Demand for vaccines has outstripped supply as infections rise. Staff at sexual health clinics and other institutions struggled to cope with the influx of people seeking vaccinations.

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

California’s announcement comes after a public health emergency was declared in Illinois on Monday. New York declared a state emergency in response to the outbreak late Friday night.

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

California, Illinois and New York, home to the country’s three largest cities, reported 47% of all confirmed cases of monkeypox in the US. New York is the epicenter of the outbreak in the US, with almost 1,400 confirmed cases as of Monday.

The Biden administration is weighing whether to declare a U.S. public health emergency, according to senior federal health officials. This will help mobilize resources for government health officials who are fighting the outbreak. The US last declared a public health emergency in response to Covid-19 in January 2020.

Monkeypox is rarely fatal, and so far no deaths have been reported in the US. But some patients suffer excruciating pain due to the rash caused by the virus.

Monkeypox is mainly spread through skin-to-skin contact during sex. Gay and bisexual men are now at the highest risk of infection, public health officials say. 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 at greatest risk, health officials emphasize that anyone can contract monkeypox through physical contact with someone who has a rash that is characteristic of the virus or through contaminated materials such as towels and sheets.

Monkeypox can also be spread through the air when an infected person has lesions in their mouth, but it requires prolonged face-to-face communication, according to the CDC. According to health officials, physical contact is the main mode of transmission.

This is the latest news. Please stay tuned for updates.