US public health officials have declared the spread of the monkeypox disease a public health emergency. The declaration will free up additional government resources to help contain the spread of the virus.
As of August 3, more than 6,600 cases of the disease had been confirmed in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra said at a briefing Thursday.
The disease can result in symptoms such as fever, headache, aches, chills, and rashes that can be itchy and painful, but is rarely fatal. There have been no reported deaths in the United States.
“Monkeypox can be spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed,” said the CDC website. “The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.”
The disease can spread through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, cuddling and kissing, and sharing bedding, towels and clothing. Health officials have emphasised that anyone can contract the disease, although men who have sex with men have been more likely to be affected.