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U.S. moves to increase monkeypox testing amid growing outbreak

U.S. moves to increase monkeypox testing amid growing outbreak
The Biden administration announced it has begun shipping monkeypox testing kits to five laboratories to increase the nation's testing capacity. Image by Samuel F. Johanns/Pixabay

June 23 (UPI) -- The Biden administration said it is moving to increase testing capacity for the monkeypox virus as cases rise nationwide.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week has begun shipping monkeypox tests to five commercial laboratory companies in order to increase testing capacity and access, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.

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"All Americans should be concerned about monkeypox cases. Thankfully we have right now the tools to fight and treat cases in America," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. "By dramatically expanding the number of testing locations throughout the country, we are making it possible for anyone who needs to be tested to do so."

Aegis Science, Labcorp, Mayo Clinic Laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and Sonic Healthcare are the five commercial laboratories that are to receive the tests, and healthcare providers will be able to use these laboratories by early next month, the Department of Health and Human Services said, adding that it will be ramping up testing capabilities throughout July.

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"This development will facilitate increased testing, leverage established relationships between clinics, hospitals and commercial laboratories and support our ability to better understand the scope of the current monkeypox outbreak," it said.

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The United States confirmed its first monkeypox case of the ongoing outbreak on March 17 in a Massachusetts patient. As of Wednesday afternoon, the CDC has counted 156 infections in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

The outbreak in the United States is occurring as dozens of nations are dealing with their own.

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The first known case of the ongoing outbreak was diagnosed in Britain early last month. Since then, more than 40 countries have diagnosed more than 2,000 infections, most among men who have sex with other men, according to the World Health Organization.

On Thursday, the WHO is to convene a meeting to decide if the outbreak merits the designation of being a public health emergency of international concern.

Monkeypox is a rare disease that produces a rash that looks like pimples or blisters, and is spread through coming into contact with the rash or the body fluids of an infected person. Being exposed to respiratory droplets during prolonged face-to-face contact, such as kissing, cuddling and sex, can also cause transmission, according to the CDC.

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