"Today's decision by the World Health Organization to declare the current monkeypox outbreak as a 'Public Health Emergency of International Concern' is a call to action for the world community to stop the spread of this virus. A coordinated, international response is essential to stop the spread of monkeypox, protect communities at greatest risk of contracting the disease and combat the current outbreak," the White House Pandemic Office coordinator Raj Panjabi said in a statement.
Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that as of Friday, there are close to 2,900 reported monkeypox cases in the U.S., second only to Spain.
Speaking on a conference call, Doctor Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC's division of high consequence pathogens and pathology, said 99 percent of the monkeypox cases confirmed in the United States involve men who have sex with men, but there have been a handful of women and transgender men who have become infected.
Cases of monkeypox in the U.S. have been identified for the first time in children – a toddler in California and an infant who is not a U.S. resident, the CDC said on Friday. The two cases are unrelated and are likely the result of household transmission, said the agency, adding that the children are in good health and are being treated.
McQuiston said it is not a surprise that pediatric cases of monkeypox have emerged, but "there is no evidence to date that we are seeing this virus spread outside of" the communities of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
White House COVID-19 response coordinator Doctor Ashish Jha, speaking on the same call, said the government has delivered 300,000 doses of a monkeypox vaccine and is working to expedite the shipment from Denmark of 786,000 more doses.
He said there are already enough vaccines on hand to provide a first vaccine dose to more than half of the eligible population in New York City and over 70 percent of the eligible population in Washington DC.