WASHINGTON (CBS News) — The Biden administration is declaring a public health emergency for the monkeypox outbreak in the United States, which now counts more infections from the virus than any other country in the world. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the decision at a briefing with top public health officials Thursday.

“This public health emergency will allow us to explore additional strategies to get vaccines and treatments more quickly out to the impacted communities. And it will allow us to get more data from jurisdictions so we can effectively track and attack this outbreak,” Robert Fenton, the newly appointed White House national monkeypox response coordinator, said at the briefing.

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Over the last decade, nationwide emergency declarations like this have previously been made only for the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid crisis, and the Zika virus outbreak in 2017.

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As it did for COVID-19, the move by Becerra to declare an emergency could unlock a broad swath of flexibilities in funding and regulations to respond to the spread of monkeypox.

A related determination would open the door for the Food and Drug Administration to grant emergency use authorizations that could ease access to treatments and vaccines for the monkeypox outbreak.

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