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California joins other states in declaring emergency over monkeypox

The governor's emergency declaration will free up resources to combat the virus.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — As monkeypox cases continue to climb in California, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Monday afternoon freeing up resources for health care workers to administer vaccines even though there is currently a monkeypox vaccine shortage.

The declaration comes as the number of monkeypox cases increases among gay and bisexual men. Monkeypox has been mainly concentrated in urban areas such as the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Out of those who have been infected with monkeypox, 91.7% have been gay men and 5.6% have been bisexual — though those numbers only reflect cases in which a patient's sexual orientation has been reported. A number of counties have only reported a few cases and many counties have zero monkeypox cases.

The emergency declaration will allow agencies to work together with less red tape and accrue vaccine supplies easier, though there is currently a shortage of monkeypox vaccines in the United States as a number of other states and cities are also declaring emergencies to acquire the vaccine.

“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, a Democrat, said in a statement Monday.

A group of Democratic legislators sent a letter to Newsom and legislative leaders on Monday to support a monkeypox spending bill. The proposal would provide $38.5 million to combat the virus. The money would be used for testing, vaccination and contact tracing across California.

The state will use the infrastructure it built during the Covid-19 pandemic with local and community-based organizations to assist those most at risk of monkeypox with vaccines, treatments and other services.

California has the capacity to conduct 1,000 tests a week and the vaccine can be administered at 30 facilities and providers across the state. Additionally, Emergency Medical Services personnel will be able to administer the monkeypox vaccine after Monday's announcement. There are currently 25,000 vaccine doses available to California residents, though 600,000 – 800,000 doses were requested from the Centers for Disease Control.

Anyone can get the virus as it spreads through close physical contact such as hugging and kissing, as well as sharing bedding, towels and clothing.

Individuals who get monkeypox may develop a flu-like illness with fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion and enlarged lymph nodes. A rash can appear a few days later with blisters or pimples that may be painful. Monkeypox generally lasts two to four weeks and usually goes away without the need for specific treatment.

Illinois and New York have also declared emergencies over monkeypox. A number of federal lawmakers have urged President Joe Biden to issue a national emergency.

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