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New York declares state disaster emergency for monkeypox outbreak

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul late Friday declared New York's rapidly spreading monkeypox outbreak a state disaster emergency as authorities raced to distribute vaccines to curb the virus' spread.

The measure comes as New York's monkeypox infection count approached nearly 1,400 cases, with most infections in New York City, which is the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S.

"More than one in four monkeypox cases in this country are in New York State, and we need to utilize every tool in our arsenal as we respond," Hochul said in a statement, addressing the emergency declaration.

The World Health Organization's director declared the virus a global health emergency late last week. As of Wednesday, over 20,000 cases of monkeypox had been detected globally in 77 countries. The U.S. currently has about 4,600 reported cases, USA TODAY reported.

The executive order specifically extends the pool of eligible individuals who can administer monkeypox vaccines, including EMS personnel, pharmacists and midwives. It also allows physicians and certified nurse practitioners to issue non-patient specific standing orders for vaccines, and requires providers to send vaccine data to the state Health Department.

VACCINES: More than 780K doses of monkeypox vaccine available Friday; San Francisco declares state of emergency

Meanwhile, San Francisco's mayor declared a state of emergency Thursday over the growing number of cases in the city, which has 261 out of California's 800 cases.

"We are in desperate need of vaccines to support the people of San Francisco," Mayor London Breed said.

Federal health officials said they’re still weighing whether to declare monkeypox a public health emergency, which would free up more resources.

After the federal government struggled to obtain enough monkeypox vaccines earlier this month, supplies steadily climbed in recent weeks, culminating Friday with the distribution of 780,000 doses nationally.

About 110,000 doses went to New York, including about 30,000 outside New York City.

Vaccine clinics in the greater New York City area as well as several upstate counties faced overwhelming demand for shots earlier this week amid limited vaccine supplies, as people booked available appointments within hours.

Healthcare workers with New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene help people register for the monkeypox vaccine at one of the City's vaccination sites on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in New York. New York declared a state disaster emergency due to monkeypox on July 29. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Healthcare workers with New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene help people register for the monkeypox vaccine at one of the City's vaccination sites on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, in New York. New York declared a state disaster emergency due to monkeypox on July 29. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Monkeypox is a rare, viral infection that does not usually cause serious illness. However, it can result in hospitalization or death.

Monkeypox spreads through close, physical contact between people. This means anyone can get monkeypox, state health officials said.

FILE - New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters in the Red Room at the state Capitol on July 1, 2022.
FILE - New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters in the Red Room at the state Capitol on July 1, 2022.

However, based on the current outbreak, certain populations are being affected by monkeypox more than others, including men who have sex with men.

Based on previous outbreaks of monkeypox around the world, some groups may also be at heightened risk for severe outcomes if they contract monkeypox. This includes people with weakened immune systems, elderly New Yorkers, young children under 8 years of age, and pregnant people.

Contributing: Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on New York State Team: NY declares state disaster emergency for monkeypox outbreak