The Biden administration has declared monkeypox a public health emergency as cases of the disease continue to spread in the U.S., according to various news reports that said the announcement came during a briefing with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

As of August 3, there were a total of 6,617 confirmed monkeypox cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A CDC map of the outbreak showed that at least one case had been detected in all U.S. states apart from Montana and Wyoming as of Wednesday.

“We are prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters, according to NPR.

As the U.S. continues to contend with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, though data shows that COVID cases are significantly lower now than they were during the Omicron-driven surge in late 2021 and early 2022, many details on what monkeypox is, its symptoms and how it spreads may remain unclear.

According to the CDC, it is a rare disease resulting from infection with the monkeypox virus, which is part of the same family of viruses as the one that causes smallpox. The symptoms of monkeypox—which can include fever, headache, exhaustion and a rash—are similar to those of smallpox, but monkeypox is milder and rarely fatal, the CDC said.

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