US Declares Public Health Emergency Over Monkeypox Outbreak
The United States has declared a public health emergency to bolster the response to the monkeypox outbreak that has infected more than 7,100 Americans.
The announcement on Thursday will free up money and other resources to fight the virus, which may cause fever, body aches, chills, fatigue and pimple-like bumps on many parts of the body.
“We are prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” said Xavier Becerra, head of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The declaration by HHS comes as the Biden administration has faced criticism over monkeypox vaccine availability. Clinics in major cities such as New York and San Francisco say they haven’t received enough of the two-shot vaccine to meet demand, and some have had to stop offering the second dose to ensure supply of first doses.
The White House said it has made more than 1.1 million doses available and has helped to boost domestic diagnostic capacity to 80,000 tests per week.
The monkeypox virus spreads through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, cuddling and kissing, as well as sharing bedding, towels and clothing. The people who have gotten sick so far have been primarily men who have sex with men. But health officials emphasize that the virus can infect anyone.
No one in the United States has died. A few deaths have been reported in other countries.
Earlier this week, the Biden administration named top officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to serve as the White House coordinators to combat monkeypox.
Thursday’s declaration is an important — and overdue — step, said Lawrence Gostin, a public health law expert at Georgetown University.
“It signals the US government’s seriousness and purpose, and sounds a global alarm,” he said.
Under the declaration, HHS can draw from emergency funds, hire or reassign staff to deal with the outbreak and take other steps to control the virus.
For example, the announcement should help the federal government to seek more information from state and local health officials about who is becoming infected and who is being vaccinated.
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That information can be used to better understand how the outbreak is unfolding and how well the vaccine works.
Gostin said the US government has been too cautious and should have declared a nationwide emergency earlier. Public health measures to control outbreaks have increasingly faced legal challenges in recent years, but Gostin didn’t expect that to happen with monkeypox.
“It is a textbook case of a public health emergency,” Gostin said.
“It’s not a red or a blue state issue. There is no political opposition to fighting monkeypox.”
A public health emergency can be extended, similar to what happened during the Covid-19 pandemic, he noted.
The urgency in the current response stems from the rapid spread of the virus coupled with the limited availability of the two-dose vaccine called Jynneos, which is considered the main medical weapon against the disease.
The doses, given 28 days apart, are currently being given to people soon after they think they were exposed, as a measure to prevent symptoms.
Becerra announced the emergency declaration during a call with reporters. During the call, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf said regulators are reviewing an approach that would stretch supplies by allowing health professionals to vaccinate up to five people — instead of one — with each vial of Jynneos.
Under this so-called “dose-sparing” approach, physicians and others would use a shallower injection under the skin, instead of the subcutaneous injection currently recommended in the vaccine’s labeling.
Califf said a decision authorizing that approach could come “within days.”
That would require another declaration, to allow the government to alter its guidelines on how to administer the vaccine, officials said.
Health officials pointed to a study published in 2015 that found that Jynneos vaccine administered that way was as effective at stimulating the immune system as when the needle plunger deeper into other tissue.
But experts also have acknowledged they are still gathering information on how well the conventional administration of one or two full doses works against the outbreak.
Others health organizations have made declarations similar to the one issued by HHS.
Last week, the World Health Organization called monkeypox a public health emergency, with cases in more than 70 countries. A global emergency is WHO’s highest level of alert, but the designation does not necessarily mean a disease is particularly transmissible or lethal.
READ ALSO: Monkeypox Outbreak Hits Gombe
California, Illinois and New York have all made declarations in the last week, as have New York City, San Francisco and San Diego County.
The declaration of a national public health emergency and the naming of a monkeypox czar are “symbolic actions,” said Gregg Gonsalves, a Yale University infectious diseases expert.
What’s important is that the government is taking the necessary steps to control the outbreak and — if it comes to that — to have a plan for how to deal with monkeypox if it becomes endemic, he said.
Monkeypox is endemic in parts of Africa, where people have been infected through bites from rodents or small animals. It does not usually spread easily among people.
But in May, a wave of unexpected cases began emerging in Europe and the United States. Now more than 26,000 cases have been reported in countries that traditionally have not seen monkeypox.
. Times of India
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Police Fine British Prime Minister For Not Wearing Seatbelt In Car
The British Police have fined Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for not wearing a seatbelt in the back of a moving car while on a trip to northern England.
Sunak, who recorded an Instagram video on Thursday, was seen turning in his seat to talk to the camera without a seatbelt on, a video that has now been deleted from the social media site.
The PM’s office at Downing Street said the incident was a “brief error of judgment”, but Lancashire constabulary announced they were fining Sunak for the infraction, The Guardian UK says.
The force said: “You will be aware that a video has been circulating on social media showing an individual failing to wear a seatbelt while a passenger in a moving car in Lancashire.
“After looking into this matter, we have today issued a 42-year-old man from London with a conditional offer of fixed penalty.”
Reacting, a spokesperson for Sunak said: “The prime minister fully accepts this was a mistake and has apologised. He will of course comply with the fixed penalty.”
A fixed penalty means Sunak can pay a fine to avoid a court hearing.
The police did not disclose how much they had fined the prime minister, but according to the government’s safety campaign, any driver or passenger not wearing a seatbelt is breaking the law and is liable to be fined up to £500 if the case goes to court, according to The Guardian UK.
Sunak’s transportation habits were already a talking point in the United Kingdom before the incident, a report by AFP says.
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His political rivals have taken aim at his use of a private jet to make multiple short flights in recent days.
This is not the first time Sunak has been slapped with a police fine.
He was fined while serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer for attending a Downing Street party in June 2020 that violated the government’s rules on social distancing, according to an AFP report.
The latest fine makes Sunak the second Conservative prime minister to receive a police fine in less than 12 months. The Metropolitan police, in 2020, issued a fixed-penalty notice to Boris Johnson for attending a party during lockdown. Sunak was fined for attending the same event as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
World’s Oldest Nun Dies At 118
French nun Sister André who was the world’s oldest known person died at age 118 in the southern French city of Toulon, the city’s mayor Hubert Falco said on Wednesday.
Born in the southern French town of Ales on Feb. 11, 1904, as Lucile Randon, Sister André was listed as the oldest person alive by the Gerontology Research Group in April 2022.
The Frenchwoman worked as a home teacher in her youth and did not enter a religious community until she was in her early 40s.
Most recently, Sister André was confined to a wheelchair, and for several years she could no longer see properly.
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She was an honorary citizen of Toulon, where she lived in a retirement home for several years.
Falco praised her as incredibly modern and a nun with a big heart.
Guinness World Records said Lucile, who took the name of Sister André in 1944, was the second-oldest French person and the second-oldest European person ever recorded.
More recently, Sister André received the record for the oldest COVID-19 survivor after an infection in 2021.
“It’s difficult to fathom that someone born before the patenting of plastic, zips or even bras were alive well into the 21st century, and robust enough to beat COVID-19’’, the Guinness World Records editor, Craig Glenday said in a statement.
“It’s been an honour to record her story in the pages of the Guinness World Records book, and she will live on in history as the fourth oldest person ever authenticated.’’
With her death, Maria Branyas Morera, who lived in Spain, assumed the title of the world’s oldest person at age 115.
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Eight Shot At Crowded Martin Luther King Day Block Party
Eight people were shot at a block party packed with more than 1,000 people celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Fort Pierce, Florida, Monday, police said.
All eight of those shot were adults and they were ferried to the hospital for treatment, including one person in critical condition, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Hester said during a news conference.
Six people, including a baby, were killed in a ‘massacre’ that is likely gang-related, California sheriff’s office says.
At least four others were injured as people ran for safety, the sheriff’s office said. One of those injured was a juvenile who was hurt as people rushed to flee the park where the event was being held, Hester said.
“As the shots rang out, people were just running in all directions,” Hester said. “There were people laying behind cars, laying behind anything they could lay behind. It was kind of hard to tell who was a victim and who was just hiding at that point.”
The shooting began at around 5:20 p.m. in Ilous Ellis Park, he said, where the community had gathered for an afternoon car show, dance performances, live DJ and kids activities to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an event flyer shows.
In a video taken by a witness, attendees are seen dancing by their cars and enjoying the music when what sounds like gunfire begins to resonate over the song. People in the crowd start to rush away from the noise, some ducking behind cars or grabbing children’s hands and running across the street.
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The incident marks the 30th mass shooting in the country this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
So far this year, the US is averaging about two mass shootings per day.
Two sheriff’s deputies who were stationed in the park ran toward the scene and provided aid to those injured, Hester said. Several witnesses also helped to render aid and drive people to the hospital, he added.
The sheriff’s office has not named any suspects in the shooting, but investigators were following up on several leads from witnesses and community members Monday night.
Investigators preliminarily believe the gunfire involved multiple shooters and resulted from “a disagreement of some sort between two parties,” Hester said.
“So many innocent people that were injured or hurt were not part of the disagreement,” he added.
Survivors of mass shootings are left with lifelong wounds — and mounting bills
“It’s really unfortunate and it’s sad that during a celebration of someone who represented peace and equality, a disagreement results in a use of guns and violence,” Hester said.
He estimated as many as 40 sheriff’s office personnel were working the case Monday night as they processed the scene, spoke to victims at the hospital and followed up on leads.
Investigators are asking anyone with information about the shooting to contact authorities or submit anonymous tips through CrimeStoppers. The sheriff’s department is handling the case because the Ilous Ellis Park is a St. Lucie County park.
Fort Pierce is a coastal city about an hour’s drive north of West Palm Beach.
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