Cases of monkeypox are spreading across the United States, federal health officials said Tuesday, with New York City reporting the most as the country's top infectious disease expert said the US should change strategy to keep it from spreading.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported nearly 3,500 confirmed monkeypox or orthopox virus (the same family) cases across the US. Maine, Vermont, Wyoming and Montana remain the only states not to have a confirmed case yet. Cases in the US were first detected in May and have spread rapidly ever since.
The New York City Health Department said as of Monday, 1,040 people have been infected with monkeypox, with more cases likely not diagnosed.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on July 23 called the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency on July 23 after the virus reached more than 70 countries around the world.
In a letter to the WHO dated Tuesday, New York City Health Commissioner Dr Ashwin Vasan called on it to rename the monkeypox virus, explaining the messaging around monkeypox might have a stigmatizing effect in vulnerable communities.
The city health department said that "anyone can get and spread monkeypox". It noted that infections have primarily spread among "social networks of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men".
The virus can cause symptoms like lesions, a rash and swelling of lymph nodes.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and public health officials have pressed the Biden administration for more monkeypox vaccines and treatment access, opened vaccination clinics in hotspot areas and launched new public awareness campaigns.
Meanwhile, the federal government is weighing more intensive action.
Calling the outbreak a "serious problem", Dr Anthony Fauci on Tuesday told CNN that the White House is considering establishing a monkeypox coordinator role, one that, similarly to the COVID-19 job that Dr Ashish Jha holds now, would focus on increasing testing, vaccine distribution, therapeutic treatments and more.
"You want coordination among all the different agencies," explained Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He said "that you want someone to actually coordinate all of those things to get a much better response. We're doing well, but we've got to do much better."