By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration announced on Wednesday it is expanding monkeypox testing capacity to five commercial laboratory companies amid rising cases.
As of Tuesday, there have been 142 reported monkeypox cases in the United States across 24 states and Washington, D.C. The first U.S. case was reported to the CDC on May 17.
"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 (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said. "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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has begun shipping monkeypox tests to the five companies: Aegis Science, Labcorp, Mayo Clinic Laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and Sonic Healthcare, HHS said.
HHS said health-care providers will be able to use these laboratories by early July.
The commercial laboratories "will dramatically expand testing capacity nationwide and make testing more convenient and accessible for patients and health care providers," HHS said.
More than 40 countries where monkeypox is not endemic have reported outbreaks of the viral disease as confirmed cases exceed 3,000. The World Health Organization is set to decide on Thursday whether to declare monkeypox a global health emergency.
Monkeypox, which spreads through close contact and was first found in monkeys, mostly occurs in west and central Africa and only very occasionally spreads elsewhere.
The Washington Post reported the planned announcement earlier.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler)