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U.S. expands monkeypox testing in bid to better track scope of outbreak

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Wednesday that it has begun shipping monkeypox tests to five commercial laboratory companies in a bid to boost access to testing for the disease.

Why it matters: A lack of testing has kept public health officials in the dark about the scope of the outbreak in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 156 confirmed cases as of Wednesday.

Details: In an effort to address the issue, HHS has shipped tests to commercial laboratory companies including Aegis Science, Labcorp, Mayo Clinic Laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and Sonic Healthcare.

Health care providers will be able to use these labs by early July, with testing via these companies expected to ramp up throughout the month, according to the federal agency.

What they’re saying: “All Americans should be concerned about monkeypox cases. Thankfully we have right now the tools to fight and treat cases in America,” HHS 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.”

The big picture: The World Health Organization’s European chief has warned that the monkeypox outbreak “poses a real risk” to public health and urged countries to conduct contact tracing, testing and sequencing to identify new cases.

The WHO, which has announced plans to change the name of the virus due to concerns about racism and stigma, is slated to convene an emergency meeting on Thursday to decide whether or not the current outbreak constitutes a public health emergency.