Joe Biden announced a health warning Sunday, urging “everybody” to be worried about the monkeypox cases now being reported in both America and Europe.
According to a government national security adviser, the U.S. has vaccines that are “ready to use against monkeypox,” which is an illness caused by a virus from monkeys.
Biden spoke to journalists as he departed Osan Air Base in South Korea for Japan, stating that his health advisers had not yet educated him on the disease’s “degree of exposure,” but that it would be “important.”
“They have not told me the amount of exposure yet, but it’s something everybody should be worried about,” Biden added. “We’re working on figuring out what we can do and whether or not there will be a vaccine for it.”
“But it is a worry in the sense that if it were to spread, it would be significant. That’s all they’ve told me so far,” he said.
Outside of Africa, monkeypox is infrequently diagnosed, with 80 confirmed cases worldwide as of Friday, including at least two in the United States, and at least 50 suspected ones.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, later informed journalists aboard Air Force One that the United States has vaccines “ready to go” that are “relevant to combating monkeypox.”
Sullivan stated he has been briefing President Biden, who is on a trip through Asia, on the problem based on health updates from officials.
The warning came on Friday, when a patient suspected of having monkeypox has tested positive for orthopoxvirus, the larger group of illnesses to which monkeypox belongs, in New York City.
The possibility of monkeypox, which is native to Africa, being present in New York City follows the confirmation of a case in Massachusetts from a resident who had recently visited Canada.
Since May 14, people with the virus have been identified in Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal. The source of the outbreak on other continents has not yet been determined, but previously cases were usually linked to travel to the continent or animal bites.
“Many of these monkeypox epidemic reports are found in sexual networks,” Inger Damon, MD, a poxvirus specialist at the US CDC said.