Health Secretary Calls for Monkeypox Response


U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra here during a committee hearing. | Image by Greg Nash, Getty Images via NPR

The U.S. health secretary stated Thursday that more needs to be done locally to stop the spread of the virus that causes monkeypox, adding that Congress needs to work with the federal government to help mitigate the increasing number of monkeypox infections, CNBC reported.

On a conference call with reporters, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said that while the federal government has attempted to combat the virus, it is not in charge of the state-level public health response.

“We don’t control public health in the 50 states, in the territories, and in the the tribal jurisdictions. We rely on our partnership to work with them. They need to work with us,” said Becerra.

The U.S. currently leads the globe in the number of confirmed cases of monkeypox. As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 5,811 cases of monkeypox in 48 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.  

New York, California, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, and Texas are reporting the largest numbers of infections. Montana and Wyoming are the only two states with no reported cases of monkeypox at this time. 

The Dallas Express reported the first monkeypox case for Dallas County in June. Since then, the county has had 175 confirmed monkeypox cases and 21 suspected cases.

Becerra stated that HHS had informed Congress of the resources required for the department to stop the outbreak, but it is up to legislators to take action.

Patty Murray, the chair of the Senate’s health committee, expressed her concern in a letter to Becerra that healthcare workers lack the resources necessary to address the outbreak.

However, Becerra emphasized on Thursday that more must also be done locally to stop the virus from spreading, including outreach to the most at-risk group.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, studies suggest that monkeypox has been spread primarily amongst men who have sex with other men. However, anyone can contract the virus.

“All the communities that could be impacted, including those that are most at risk, have every reason to understand monkeypox and do everything they can to stay ahead,” Becerra said. “And so it’s the prevention, its the treatment, it’s the education, and its the outreach,” he said.

As infections increase, Congress has begun asking the Biden administration to respond to the spread. In a letter to President Joe Biden last week, House Democrats urged the administration to declare a public health emergency in response to the outbreak. 

Since May, the U.S. government has distributed over 330,000 doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine. The Department of Health and Human Services plans to provide an additional 786,000 doses of the vaccine.

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