Mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virus particles shown through electron-microscope images. By REUTERS.
U.S. health authorities on Thursday declared Monkeypox a public health emergency, a move aimed at hastening the distribution of the Monkeypox vaccine as cases in the U.S. continue to climb.
Total cases in the U.S. were well over 6,600 as of Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. has the highest number of known cases as well, surpassing European countries such as Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and others.
The World Health Organization on Saturday declared the virus a global public-health emergency of international concern.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO's director-general, said the emergency committee believes the Monkeypox risk is moderate, except in Europe, where the WHO has concluded, based on data, that the risk is high.
The disease, which in the past was rarely seen outside Africa, has in recent weeks spread to dozens of countries — reaching over 26,000 cases around the world, affecting mainly men who have sex with men. At least five people have died in Africa from Monkeypox-related complications this year, however no deaths have been reported outside the continent.
“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the International Health Regulations," stated Dr. Tedros.
V.I. Dept. of Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion told the Consortium two weeks ago that health officials, including herself and D.O.H. Medical Director Dr. Tai Hunte-Caesar, have been in contact with the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Region 2.
"We're very much involved in the situation. We do have 100 doses of the vaccine throughout the territory," Ms. Encarnacion said, confirming the territory's preparedness efforts in anticipation of the disease's arrival in the USVI, though no cases have been detected.
She said the Monkeypox vaccine isn't administered before detection but rather after an individual has been confirmed to be a positive case.
Should an individual believe they are ill with Monkeypox, this person should make contact with either D.O.H. or their health provider. The health provider would in turn reach out to D.O.H. which would then treat the individual. "We are prepared to treat," the health commissioner assured.