Officials in New York City declared a public health emergency due to the spread of the monkeypox virus on Saturday, calling the city “the epicenter” of the outbreak.
The announcement by the mayor, Eric Adams, and the health commissioner, Ashwin Vasan, said as many as 150,000 city residents could be at risk of infection. The declaration will allow officials to issue emergency orders under the city health code and implement measures to help slow the spread.
“We will continue to work with our federal partners to secure more [vaccine] doses as soon as they become available,” Adams and Vasan said in the statement. “This outbreak must be met with urgency, action and resources, both nationally and globally, and this declaration of a public health emergency reflects the seriousness of the moment.”
In the past two days, the New York governor, Kathy Hochul, declared a state disaster emergency declaration and the state health department called monkeypox an “imminent threat to public health”.
New York had recorded 1,345 cases as of Friday, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California had the second-most, with 799.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a global health emergency on 23 July and San Francisco’s mayor on Thursday announced a state of emergency over the growing number of cases.
The once-rare disease has been established in parts of central and west Africa for decades but was not known to spark large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe, North America and elsewhere.
To date, there have been more than 22,000 monkeypox cases reported in nearly 80 countries since May, with about 75 suspected deaths in Africa, mostly in Nigeria and Congo. On Friday, Brazil and Spain reported deaths linked to monkeypox, the first reported outside Africa. Spain reported a second monkeypox death on Saturday.
The virus spreads through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact as well as sharing bedding, towels and clothing. In Europe and North America, it has spread primarily among men who have sex with men, though health officials emphasise that the virus can infect anyone.
The type of monkeypox virus identified in this outbreak is rarely fatal, and people usually recover within weeks, but the lesions and blisters caused by the virus are painful. The virus is more of a concern among vulnerable people such as those with weakened immune systems or who are pregnant.