On Sunday, President Joe Biden said the recent outbreak of monkeypox should concern “everybody,” as it continues to confuse medical experts around the world.
Fox News reported that while speaking with a group of reporters in South Korea before boarding Air Force One for Japan, Biden said, “Everybody should be concerned about [it].”
Biden’s remarks come as large monkeypox outbreaks were reported in Africa, with some cases also being reported in Europe and the U.S.
Biden said, “We’re working on it, hard to figure out what we do.”
There are currently 80 confirmed cases of the disease worldwide and at least 50 suspected cases. The U.S. has only currently confirmed two cases after a man in Massachusetts was diagnosed with the disease and a second man in New York City tested positive for it.
The man from Massachusetts is reported to have traveled to Canada before coming down with the disease.
Monkeypox cases have also been reported in the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, Canada, France, Germany, Belgium, and Australia. Reportedly, none of the people coming down with the disease have any travel history to Africa, where the virus is most present.
Oyewale Tomori, a virologist and World Health Organization (WHO) advisory board member, said, “I’m stunned by this. Every day I wake up, and there are more countries infected.”
The virologist noted that the seemingly large presence of monkeypox in Western countries among people who have not traveled to Africa is perplexing.
Tomori added, “This is not the kind of spread we’ve seen in West Africa, so there may be something new happening in the West.”
Christian Happi, the director of the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, agreed with Tomori that monkeypox’s seemingly spontaneous emergence in the West is perplexing. He said he has “never seen anything like what’s happening in Europe.”
Although it is unlikely someone will die from the disease, WHO data estimates that monkeypox could be fatal for up to one-in-ten people. However, monkeypox’s similarity to smallpox may enable recipients of smallpox vaccines to receive some protection from the virus.
Reportedly, symptoms of monkeypox appear one to two weeks after the initial infection occurs and invovle flu-like symptoms including fever, headaches, and shortness of breath. After about five days of infection, a “skin eruption phase” begins when a rash starts to appear and often spreads to different areas of the infected person’s body.