How Agencies with Frontline Feds are Responding to the Monkeypox Outbreak
As of Monday, there were almost 16,000 cases reported in the U.S.
Since the monkeypox outbreak started in May, there have been almost 16,000 reported cases in the United States and now some federal agencies with frontline employees are taking action to protect their workforce.
As of now, the virus is most prevalent in men who have sex with men, but anyone who comes in close, personal contact with an infected individual is at risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Government Executive asked some federal agencies what precautions they are taking for their staff and those in custody.
U.S. Postal Service
“The health and wellbeing of our employees is of critical importance to the Postal Service,” said Darlene Casey, USPS senior public relations representative. “To ensure they get the most accurate and current information, we have encouraged employees who have raised questions and concerns related to monkeypox to contact their physicians and local public health officials who will be in a much better position to provide the expert guidance they seek.”
Federal Bureau of Prisons
“BOP has protocols and practices that can and will be implemented to mitigate against and, if necessary, respond to any outbreak in our environment, including monkeypox,” according to the agency’s website. “The BOP's Health Services Division has already provided information to Health Services Administrators and Clinical Directors nationally to alert clinical and administrative staff on the signs, symptoms, and testing for monkeypox. Clinical guidance is drafted and will be issued imminently.”
Also, BOP is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “and will continue to assess the risk to staff and inmates and respond as needed to any positive cases within our environment.”
As of Wednesday, there haven’t been any reported cases among staff or inmates, according to the agency.
The Defense Department
“The Department of Defense continues to monitor human-to-human transmission of monkeypox,” said Commander Nicole Schwegman, DoD spokesperson. “While it has not become a widespread threat to our forces, we are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our troops both home and abroad and will ensure they have all the information they need to protect themselves at their disposal.” Also, “the Defense Health Agency continues to convey updated clinical guidance, including information about testing and treatment, to our medical providers.”
The official website for the military health system has more information on the disease and vaccines available. There are 81 reported cases among DoD personnel, 60 of which are service members, a spokesperson told Government Executive on Wednesday morning.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
“ICE remains committed to the health, welfare, and safety of those in its custody,” an ICE spokesperson said. “ICE continuously reviews and enhances civil detention operations to ensure people detained by ICE are treated humanely, protected from harm, provided appropriate medical and mental health care, and receive the rights and protections to which they are entitled.”
In general, specific medical staff notify the ICE Health Service Corps unit of an ICE detainee “with a significant communicable disease and of any contact or outbreak,” such as monkeypox, said the spokesperson. “Comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment a detainee arrives and throughout the entirety of their stay”
Customs and Border Protection
“CBP is working with the [its] public health department to educate our medical providers on the identification, diagnosis, parameters for referral to local health providers, proper documentation and reporting,” said a CBP spokesperson. “The most recent education was provided on August 8, 2022.”
On Monday, the public health department briefed CBP operational support on monkeypox and COVID-19. CBP also meets with the CDC monthly to discuss monkeypox and other diseases of concern, said the spokesperson. As of Wednesday, there have not been any reported cases among the CBP workforce or those in its custody.
Veterans Affairs Department
The VA’s Office of Research and Development includes information on its website about use of TPOXX, a treatment for monkeypox, in VA facilities.
Indian Health Service
IHS has a factsheet on its website with information on the disease, vaccine options and treatment use. As of Wednesday, the agency was not aware of any cases in its workforce.