Joe Biden says monkeypox is ‘something to be concerned about’ as cases rise

Joe Biden has described monkeypox as ‘something to be concerned about’ as more cases are identified in Europe. The president was asked about the disease as he spoke to reporters at Osan Air Base in South Korea, where he visited troops before taking off for Japan to continue his trip in Asia.

He said: “It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential. They haven’t told me the level of exposure yet but it is something that everybody should be concerned about.

He added that work is under way to determine what vaccine might be effective. Jake Sullivan, Mr Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters on board a flight to Tokyo that the US has a supply of “vaccine that is relevant to treating monkeypox”.

READ MORE: Monkeypox cases in UK more than double to 20

“We have vaccine available to be deployed for that purpose,” he said. Mr Sullivan added that Mr Biden was getting regular updates on the outbreak.

Monkeypox is rarely identified outside of Africa but as of Friday (May 20), there were 80 confirmed cases worldwide – including at least two in the US and another 50 suspected ones.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) also confirmed that 11 new cases of Monkeypox have been found in the UK. Although the disease belongs to the same virus family as small pox, its symptoms are milder.

Speaking on Sunday, Dr Susan Hopkins, a chief medical adviser of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said there is “absolutely” community transmission of monkeypox in the UK.

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She also said cases have been predominantly confirmed in individuals who self-identify as gay or bisexual.

Speaking to BBC One’s Sunday Morning, she said: “Absolutely, we are finding cases that have not identified contact with an individual from West Africa, which is what we’ve seen previously in this country.

“The community transmission is largely centered in urban areas and we are predominantly seeing it in individuals who self-identify as gay or bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.”

Asked why it is being found in that demographic, she said: “That’s because of the frequent close contacts they may have. We would recommend to anyone who’s having changes in sex partners regularly or having close contact with individuals that they don’t know to come forward if they develop a rash.”

Dr Hopkins said doctors are using a form of smallpox vaccine for those who have come into contact with cases.

Asked if people will need to get vaccinated for the infection, told the programme: “There is no direct vaccine for monkeypox but we are using a form of smallpox vaccine – a third-generation smallpox vaccine that’s safe in individuals who are contacts of cases. So, we’re not using it in the general population.

“We’re using it in individuals who we believe are at high risk of developing symptoms and using it early, particularly within four or five days of the case developing symptoms.

“For contacts, [this] reduces your risk of developing disease, so that’s how we’re focusing our vaccination efforts at this point.”

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People usually recover within two to four weeks without needing to be admitted to hospital, but the disease occasionally is deadly.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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