Joe Biden said on Sunday that “everyone” should be concerned about the recent spread of monkeypox, and his national security adviser assured the public that the United States has a “vaccine that is relevant to treating” the virus.
During an official visit to South Korea, Biden told reporters, “I haven’t been told the level of exposure yet, but it’s something everyone should be concerned about.” The president, speaking at the Osan air base, also added: “It is a concern because if it were to spread, it would have consequences.”
Initially, Biden said the administration was exploring what “if any” vaccine is available to protect people against the virus. But later, his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the United States had a “vaccine available to be deployed” against the monkeypox virus if needed.
Officials with the federal Centers for Disease Control have previously said that people who are exposed to monkeypox, which has a slow incubation period, can receive existing smallpox vaccines to limit the severity of the disease.
Biden’s first comments on the growing outbreak of the rare virus came a day after a World Health Organization senior adviser said monkeypox appeared to be spreading through sexual contact and warned that the number of cases it could continue to rise through the summer as people attend festivals and more. big gatherings.
“What seems to be happening now is that it has entered the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and it is spreading, just like sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world,” the WHO adviser said. David Heyman.
As of Sunday, public health authorities had confirmed around 80 cases in nine European countries, along with the United States, Canada and Australia. Another 50 cases were suspected infections awaiting confirmation.
In the United States, health officials in Massachusetts on Wednesday confirmed the first case of the disease in that state. That patient had recently traveled to Canada.
A New York City resident later in the week tested positive for the virus that causes monkeypox, and the federal Centers for Disease Control was still investigating whether the disease was present Saturday.
The virus comes from wild animals, including rodents and primates, but can occasionally be transferred to humans, with most of those cases being traced to central and western Africa. It can cause fever, body aches, chills, and fatigue, and it occasionally shows up in the US, including last year in a couple of people who had just traveled to Nigeria.
People with severe cases may also develop pus-filled rashes and lesions on the face, palms, and other parts of the body.
The virus does not spread easily between people, but transmission can occur through contact with bodily fluids, monkeypox sores, touching clothing or bedding that has been contaminated with fluids or sores, or through respiratory droplets during prolonged face-to-face contact.
Health officials have been adamant that monkeypox is harder to spread and therefore easier to contain than Covid-19.