PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The federal government declared a public health emergency Thursday to bolster the response to the monkeypox outbreak that has infected more than 7,100 Americans.
The announcement will free up money and other resources to fight the virus, which may cause fever, body aches, chills, fatigue and pimple-like bumps on many parts of the body.
"We are prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously," said Xavier Becerra, head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The declaration by HHS comes as the Biden administration has faced criticism over monkeypox vaccine availability. Clinics in major cities such as New York and San Francisco said they haven't received enough of the two-shot vaccine to meet demand, and some have had to stop offering the second dose to ensure supply of first doses.
The White House said it has made more than 1.1 million doses available and has helped to boost domestic diagnostic capacity to 80,000 tests per week.
Dr. Sarah Bass of the College of Public Health at Temple University said declaring a public health emergency will prep the nation, especially in producing more vaccines.
"Hopefully what this declaration will do is ramp up that vaccine manufacturing so that we have enough vaccines so they can take it prophylactically before they come into contact with someone," said Bass.
But given the nature of how we know monkeypox spreads primarily through skin-to-skin contact, battling this virus will be much different than Covid-19.
Dr. Bass doesn't expect measures like social distancing to become a factor.
"Covid was a very highly infectious disease that was spread through the air, and we didn't have vaccine for it and it was life-threatening," said Bass.
But nonetheless, she thinks the health emergency declaration is necessary. More than 26,000 cases have been reported globally, and over 6,600 cases have been reported in the United States.
"We've seen pretty substantial increase in cases in a short period of time, so we're definitely having community spread that's happening. Also, we have this vaccine but we don't have enough of it," said Bass.
The monkeypox virus spreads through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, cuddling and kissing, as well as sharing bedding, towels and clothing. The people who have gotten sick so far have been primarily men who have sex with men. But health officials emphasize that the virus can infect anyone.
Medical experts said symptoms such as headaches, fever, and painful blisters usually go away, but the CDC warns that those at risk of developing serious illness include kids under 8 and people with compromised immune systems.
For now, the CDC said to prevent infection, avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who may have a rash that looks like monkeypox. Also, don't share things like utensils or towels.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.