The United States has declared monkeypox a public health emergency, the health secretary said on Thursday, a move expected to free up additional funding and tools to fight the disease.
The U.S. tally topped 6,600 on Wednesday, almost all of the cases among men who have sex with men.
“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said at a briefing.
The declaration will improve the availability of data on monkeypox infections that is needed for the response, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said, speaking alongside Bacerra.
The U.S. government has come under pressure for its handling of the outbreak.
The disease began spreading in Europe before moving to the United States, which now has the most cases in the world. Vaccines and treatments have been in short supply and the disease often left for historically underfunded sexual health clinics to manage.
The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern,” its highest alert level. The WHO declaration last month sought to trigger a coordinated international response and unlock funding to collaborate on vaccines and treatments.