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Monkeypox Can Be Contained: White House

FILE: World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Brussels, Belgium. Taken 2.18.2022

While the World Health Organization has now declared monkeypox a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern" (PHEIC), The White House said Sunday it was confident authorities could "eliminate" monkeypox from the United States by speeding up vaccinations and treatment to fight its spread.

The World Health Organization on Saturday declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency, having affected nearly 17,000 people in 74 countries.

While WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the virus can continue to spread internationally, White House coronavirus response coordinator White House coronavirus response coordinator Doctor Ashish Jha told CBS News ""I think monkeypox can be contained, absolutely" in the United States.

"The plan is to eliminate this virus from the United States. I think we can do that," Jha said.

He said Washington has undertaken a "very substantial" ramp-up of its response, including the recent acquisition of some 800,000 vaccine doses from Denmark, since the start of the US outbreak in May, when monkeypox vaccine stockpiles were limited.

"We have acted swiftly," Jha said, pushing back against accusations that President Joe Biden's administration was caught flat-footed when the first cases began appearing in US states more than two months ago.

Jha acknowledged that the virus is spreading largely in the gay male community, but stressed that "there are other people who are at risk as well," particularly those who are in close personal contact with people who are infected.

The center of the US outbreak is New York City, though nationally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed 2,891 confirmed monkeypox and orthopoxvirus cases.

WHO's Tedros stated "For the moment this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners," and added that the "health, human rights, and dignity of affected communities" be respected as this virus is addressed.

While the monkeypox virus has existed in west and central Africa for decades, it was not seen spreading in large outbreaks outside that continent until earlier in 2022.

Monkeypox can spread through contact with skin lesions or with infected persons' bodily fluids, as well as contact with animals that have it. So far, it has been treated primarily with vaccines that were initially developed for smallpox, which is related to monkeypox.