The United States on Thursday declared monkeypox a public health emergency, AFP reported.

“We are prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously and to take responsibility to help us tackle this virus,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a call.

The Department of Health and Human Services announces a public health emergency during “significant outbreaks of infectious disease”. It remains effective for 90 days but can be renewed.

Becerra’s announcement gives the federal agencies the power to fund vaccines and drugs and to hire more workers to control the outbreak.

Monkeypox is an infection that is spread by wild animals like rodents and primates in parts of West or Central Africa, according to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.

The zoonotic virus causes a mild illness and can result in symptoms such as high temperature, headache, backache and a chickenpox-like rash. The infection can spread if a person touches monkeypox skin blisters or uses clothing, bed sheets or towels of those suffering from the disease.

On July 23, the World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency. The classification is the highest level of alert that the World Health Organization can issue and is expected to force governments into action.

As of Thursday, the United States had 6,600 monkeypox cases. However, experts believe that the number could be higher. Last week, US authorities claimed that 99% of cases were among men who have sex with men.

Meanwhile, the supply of the monkeypox vaccine, Jynneos, is constrained, The New York Times reported. The United States had 20 million Jynneos doses which have expired.

The Joe Biden administration has been criticised for supplying 6 lakh doses – a figure that is short considering that 1.6 million people are at risk, AFP reported

Dr Robert Califf, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said that the agency was working on a strategy to make the most of the number of available Jynneos doses by administering the shots into layers of the skin, rather than the fat underneath, The New York Times reported. If this technique works, they will be able to conserve the available number of doses.

“It’s important to note that [the] overall safety and efficacy profile will not be sacrificed for this approach,” he added.