AUSTIN — U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra declared monkeypox a national public health emergency Thursday as cases continue to rise, including in Texas.
“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” Becerra said during a news briefing.
Monkeypox is a serious illness that can be painful and require hospitalization. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. Once infected, a rash develops usually starting on the face and spreading to other body parts, and is easily spread by direct contact with infectious lesions, scabs or body fluids, state health officials said.
If one is experiencing symptoms or believes they have been exposed, they should go to a healthcare provider immediately, health officials said.
JYNNEOS, a monkeypox vaccine, can be administered within four days from the date of exposure to help prevent the onset of the disease.
Last week, the Texas Department of Health and Human Services announced it had received 14,780 doses of JYNNEOS. A large portion of those doses went to Dallas County, where the first case and most cases are being reported, state health officials said.
“The JYNNEOS vaccine remains in limited supply, and additional vaccines are not expected to be available until late August or early September, so public health will continue to prioritize people at the highest risk for monkeypox,” state health officials said. “Vaccinating people who have been exposed to the virus will help protect them and keep them from spreading the disease to others.”
Nationally, more than 6,600 cases have been confirmed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most cases have been reported in populous states like New York and California.
In Texas, there were 454 confirmed cases statewide as of Aug. 2, according to state data. This is a jump from 181 cases reported last week.
Most of those cases are located in North and East Texas, however nearly all public health regions in the state are reporting at least one case.
Federal and state health officials said most cases are spreading among communities where men sleep with other men but warn that the virus is not limited to those communities and can be spread with just direct contact. Of the confirmed cases, 447 were men between the ages of 18-49.
“We continue to (push) forward the tools that we need to make sure that we can take on monkeypox and keep it from spreading to the point of becoming endemic,” Becerra said. “We have all the infrastructure in place to do this right.”