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Public health emergency declared over monkeypox in WA county

King County, which includes Seattle, on Friday officially declared the local monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency as infections continue to increase in the city and other parts of the state.

“We are fortunate to have one of the best public health organizations in the nation right here in King County, and today’s action ensures they will have all the tools needed to take on the challenge of monkeypox,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a written statement.

The local emergency proclamation will free up needed resources for Public Health — Seattle & King County, as well as give the department more flexibility with hiring and contracting protocols, according to the statement. The proclamation will support efforts to contain the virus, which can cause a rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and fatigue.

Washington has reported 333 monkeypox infections, 275 of which were confirmed in King County, according to the state Department of Health. Two weeks ago, the state had confirmed 166 cases, The Seattle Times reported.

Public health officials have recorded 21 cases in Pierce County, seven in Snohomish County, five in Spokane County, five in Clark County and four in Yakima County, state health officials said.

The Washington State Department of Health reported the state’s first pediatric monkeypox case in a 17-year-old on Thursday, KING5 reported. Oregon identified its first pediatric monkeypox case on Wednesday.

“It’s an important time for public health to have the flexibility it needs to be able to respond and reach the communities most impacted, including ensuring equitable access to vaccine,” Dennis Worsham, interim director of Public Health — Seattle & King County, said in the statement.

Monkeypox vaccines have been scarce, and while Constantine’s proclamation won’t bring more doses to the state in the near term, it will help public health teams more quickly deliver vaccines when larger quantities become available, according to the executive’s office.

Currently, those considered at highest risk and who are eligible for a monkeypox vaccine in King County include anyone who has had sexual or close, intimate contact with someone who has tested positive for monkeypox, among other criteria.

San Francisco and New York City were the first cities in the country to declare a health emergency over the outbreak in late July. The federal government gave a similar announcement in early August and the World Health Organization issued a global health emergency in July.