California governor declares state of emergency over monkeypox outbreak

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CNN  — 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday declared a state of emergency to bolster California’s monkeypox vaccination efforts as the virus spreads nationwide.

The declaration comes as more than 5,800 probable or confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported in the United States, including nearly 800 in California.

While the World Health Organization has declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, the Biden administration has not issued a nationwide public health emergency declaration.

California is now the third – following New York and Illinois – and largest US state to issue a statewide declaration related to the disease.

The declaration allows emergency medical services personnel throughout California to administer FDA-approved monkeypox vaccines, expanding the pool of people able to inoculate residents against the virus even as a vaccine shortage persists.

The emergency proclamation says that “expanding the pool of eligible vaccinators will substantially aid current efforts and support anticipated further vaccination efforts upon receipt of additional doses from the federal government.”

“California is working urgently across all levels of government to slow the spread of monkeypox, leveraging our robust testing, contact tracing and community partnerships strengthened during the pandemic to ensure that those most at risk are our focus for vaccines, treatment and outreach,” Newsom said in a news release.

Monkeypox is a poxvirus, related to smallpox, that usually causes pimple- or blister-like lesions, as well as flu-like symptoms like fever, headaches, muscle aches, chills and respiratory symptoms, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus can spread to anyone through close, often skin-to-skin contact, according to the CDC. It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals.

California has received more than 61,000 vaccine doses so far and distributed more than 25,000, according to the governor’s news release. Los Angeles County has received its own vaccine allocation and state officials said California will make additional allocations in the coming weeks.

Last week, San Francisco became the first major US city to declare a local health emergency on monkeypox.

“We’ll continue to work with the federal government to secure more vaccines, raise awareness about reducing risk, and stand with the LGBTQ community fighting stigmatization,” the California governor said.

California has been using testing, contact tracing and vaccine infrastructure built for the Covid-19 pandemic to now respond to the monkeypox outbreaks, Newsom’s office said.

The CDC has made the antiviral prescription drug tecovirimat available for monkeypox patients at risk of severe disease, but access is limited in California. Now, the treatment can be administered at more than 30 facilities and providers across the state, officials said.

California has also expanded its monkeypox testing capacity and can now process more than 1,000 tests a week, according to Newsom.

The state’s first case of monkeypox was reported May 21 and involved someone who had traveled abroad.

Now, there are probable or confirmed monkeypox cases in 27 different local health jurisdictions, including a case involving a toddler.

In mid-July, California’s health department requested 600,000 to 800,000 additional monkeypox vaccine doses to help expand eligibility to both confirmed and probable exposures, as well as to high-risk individuals.

The health department said it was “hopeful the federal government will deliver additional vaccine to meet the state’s request,” in a news release Friday.

People line up to receive the monkeypox vaccine at a vaccination site at the Balboa Sports Center in the Encino neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, on July 27, 2022.

As of last week, the US Department of Health and Human Services had delivered more than 336,000 doses of Jynneos – an FDA-approved vaccine created for smallpox and monkeypox – from the strategic national stockpile.

Health authorities throughout the country have been focused on education efforts to inform Americans about how monkeypox spreads.

Monkeypox spreads through close contact, according to the CDC, including “respiratory secretions” and by touching objects contaminated by monkeypox lesions or fluids. Many of the cases in the latest outbreak appear to be connected to sexual contact, but monkeypox is not an STD.

A large number of cases in this outbreak have been in men who have sex with men, including gay and bisexual men, and public health officials are focusing their prevention efforts in this group. The virus is not unique to this community, but the nature of its close-contact spread has led to a disproportionate impact.

“Our team is also committed to reducing stigma among the LGBTQ community, which has been singled out and treated unfairly because of this outbreak. No single individual or community is to blame for the spread of any virus. Monkeypox can affect anyone as it spreads by skin-to-skin contact, as well as from sharing items like clothing, bedding and towels,” California Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón said in a Friday statement.

Following the emergency declaration in California, Equality California, a major LGBT rights non-profit organization, applauded the governor on the move, noting in a statement that the virus “continues to disproportionately affect gay, bisexual and queer men here in California and across the country.”

Earlier Monday, California State Sen. Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco, and members of the LGBTQ caucus called on Newsom to issue $38.5 million in an emergency budget appropriation to support local monkeypox response.

CNN’s Cheri Mossburg contributed to this report.

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