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Monkeypox epidemic forces New York to declare public health emergency

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New York health officials have declared a monkypox public emergency, labelling their city “the epicentre” of the epidemic.

The announcement from Mayor Eric Adams and health commissioner Ashwin Vasan says as many as 150,000 city residents could be at risk of infection.

The virus spreads through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact as well as sharing bedding, towels and clothing. It has spread primarily among men who have sex with men, though health officials emphasise the virus can infect anyone.

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The emergncy declaration will allow officials to issue orders under the city health code and amend code provisions to implement measures aimed at helping to slow the spread.

‘Imminent threat to public health’

In the past two days, 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 1345 cases as of Friday, according to data compiled by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. California had the second-most, with 799.

“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 their statement.

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“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.”

The World Health Organisation declared monkeypox a global health emergency on July 23.

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, more than 22,000 monkeypox cases have been 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 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.

-AAP

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