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NY health commissioner declares monkeypox an 'imminent threat to public health'

The monkeypox virus.
The monkeypox virus.

New York state’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett on Thursday declared monkeypox “an imminent threat to public health” in the state.

Bassett said that official declaration means that local health departments will be able to access additional state reimbursement to help with the response and prevention activities related to that virus.

Bassett noted that anyone can get monkeypox, which is primarily spread through close, physical contact. She said that the current global outbreak looks to be driven by exposure related to intimate, sexual contact, and currently, certain populations are more affected than others, including men who have sex with men.

The commissioner said that experience with previous monkeypox outbreaks in other places suggests that the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, pregnant people and children under 8 years of age may be at heightened risk for severe outcomes.

On Thursday, Governor Kathy Hochul said that 110,000 additional monkeypox vaccine doses have been secured with the help of the federal government for New York state. Approximately 80,000 of those doses will go to New York City and 30,000 to the rest of the state.

Officials at Trillium Health in Rochester are expecting a fresh supply of monkeypox vaccine to arrive next week. Several confirmed cases have been reported in Monroe County.

The virus is spreading worldwide, and is transmitted through extended skin contact with open lesions.

Dr. Bill Valenti is the staff physician for Trillium Health.

During an appearance on WXXI’s Connections with Evan Dawson on Thursday, Valenti said the next shipment will involve a few hundred doses of vaccine — but that is not enough to meet the growing demand.

”We’re starting with patients and healthcare workers,” Valenti said. "But we’re also learning the drill in terms of what this program looks like, so we can do it in larger numbers of people. We have a mobile clinic where we could go out to the street, but that requires a supply of vaccine to do that.”

Valenti is not yet sure how soon the county will get the vaccine supply needed for that mobile clinic.

The CDC says less than 1% of monkeypox cases have been fatal.

You can get more information about monkeypox at the Monroe County Health Department website, and also from the New York State Health Department website.

Copyright 2022 WXXI News. To see more, visit WXXI News.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's Director of News and Public Affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.