More cases of a rare disease have been reported worldwide, including in the United States – where one health official said he expects new cases in the days ahead.
Confirmed cases have been identified in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States – which had between one and five confirmed monkeypox cases as of Saturday, the WHO said.
“The situation is evolving and WHO expects there will be more cases of monkeypox identified as surveillance expands in non-endemic countries,” the news release said.
Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, told ABC he wouldn’t be surprised if the US saw “a few more” cases of monkeypox in the coming days.
“But I feel like this is a virus we understand, we have vaccines against it, we have treatments against it, and it’s spread very differently than SARS-CoV-2” – the virus that causes Covid-19, Jha told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on Sunday.
“It’s not as contagious as Covid. So I am confident we’re going to be able to keep our arms around it,” Jha said. “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.”
Health experts say close contact with an infected person is required to spread the monkeypox virus.
Infection can develop after exposure to “broken skin, mucous membranes, respiratory droplets, infected body fluids or even contact with contaminated linen,” according to Neil Mabbott, personal chair in immunopathology at the veterinary school of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Though experts say monkeypox is not as contagious as Covid-19, President Joe Biden said everyone should be concerned about the spread of monkeypox – even as scientists work to learn more about the recent spread.
“They haven’t told me the level of exposure yet, but it is something that everybody should be concerned about,” Biden told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins as he was departing South Korea on Sunday.
“We’re working on it hard to figure out what we do and what vaccine, if any, might be available for it,” Biden said. “It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential. That’s all they told me.”
CNN previously reported that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is evaluating whether a smallpox vaccine should be offered to health care workers treating monkeypox patients and other people who may be at “high risk” for exposure to monkeypox.