Members of the Massachusetts federal delegation are urging the Department of Health and Human Services to step up its response to the global monkeypox outbreak, as the Bay State has reported the eighth most cases in the U.S.
U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley led the local lawmaker charge on Monday, calling on HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to “rapidly increase vaccine distribution, ensure equitable access, and engage state and local leaders in a comprehensive public health education campaign to combat the spread of monkeypox.”
More than 15,000 monkeypox cases have been confirmed across the world, and the U.S. has reported more than 2,300 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has confirmed 79 monkeypox cases, including 30 in the state’s latest weekly report. The 79 reported cases is the eighth highest total in the country — behind New York, California, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, D.C., and Texas.
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“In order to meaningfully stop the virus from spreading in Massachusetts and throughout the country, there must be an intensification in testing, vaccinations, and public health education and greatly improved data tracking,” Pressley wrote, along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, and Reps. Katherine Clark, Jim McGovern, Stephen Lynch, Lori Trahan, Bill Keating and Jake Auchincloss.
“Every person who is eligible to receive the monkeypox vaccine should be able to access it,” they wrote. “However, there is a documented shortage in vaccines that must be addressed immediately. Further, communities that are disproportionately impacted should be prioritized for testing and vaccination. … Now is the time for aggressive action.”
Monkeypox is spread through skin-to-skin contact and touching items, including clothing and linens, that previously touched an infectious rash or body fluids.
“Although the current outbreak has disproportionately impacted men who have sex with men, people of all genders and sexual orientations can be infected,” the Massachusetts lawmakers wrote. “Symptoms of the disease include fever, chills, exhaustion, and a rash appearing on a person’s face and body, leading to significant disruptions in a person’s daily life.”
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