Monkeypox has now reached the U.S. after clusters of cases popped up oversease, but President Joe Biden says the rare virus does not rise to the same “level” of concern as COVID-19.
Speaking in Tokyo on Monday after a meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, Biden said that he doesn’t believe the U.S. will need to quarantine for monkeypox, and the nation has a supply of vaccines to fight the virus, the Washington Post reported.
“I just don’t think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with COVID-19, and the smallpox vaccine works for it,” Biden said, when asked if the U.S. would quarantine like Belgium, which has required anyone infected to isolate for 21 days after they confirmed three cases of monkeypox in the country.
Biden said that the U.S.’s supply of the smallpox vaccine — which is effective against monkeypox, even when given after a person contracts the virus — is enough to “deal with the likelihood of the problem.”
On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the first U.S. case of monkeypox this year in a Massachusetts man who had recently traveled from Canada, where officials are investigating 17 suspected cases in the Montreal area. He has been hospitalized and is in good condition, the CDC said.
The CDC is also investigating a potential case in Florida, and are monitoring six people who were seated near a confirmed case on an airplane last week. Additionally, a patient in New York City has tested positive for orthopoxvirus, which is the umbrella term for the family of viruses that includes monkeypox and smallpox, and is being treated as a “presumptive positive” for monkeypox as they await further testing. The patient is isolating at a hospital and in good condition.
Worldwide, there are 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases across 12 countries, according to the World Health Organization. Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States all have between 1 to 5 cases, while Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom are dealing with larger clusters of the virus, with between 21 and 30 cases each.
The cases are surprising because the countries “are not endemic for monkeypox virus,” WHO said. In recent years, cases have mostly been concentrated to the Congo — which typically sees thousands of monkeypox infections a year — and Nigeria, where there have been 200 confirmed and 500 reported cases since 2017, according to WHO.
Monkeypox, which was named because it was first identified in 1958 in colonies of monkeys, is mild in most cases. After an incubation period of seven to 14 days, the first signs are fever, headache, muscle aches, chills and exhaustion. Around one to three days after those first symptoms, infected people will develop a rash, typically on the face, that then spreads to other parts of the body and turn into fluid-filled lesions.
Monkeypox can spread through a few methods — direct contact with body fluids or the blisters that pop up on the body can lead to transmission, but the main way is through respiratory droplets. Still, it does not spread as easily as COVID-19 and someone would have to be in prolonged contact with an infected person to contract monkeypox.
“It’s not as contagious as COVID. So I am confident we’re going to be able to keep our arms around it,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, told ABC on Sunday. “But we’ll track it very closely and use the tools we have to make sure we can continue to prevent further spread and take care of the people who get infected.”
Listen — if we’ve learned anything in recent years its to never underestimate a virus. Everyone should be working overtime to nip this in the bud.