President Joe Biden said Sunday that recent cases of monkeypox that have been identified in Europe and the United States were something “to be concerned about.”
In his first public comments on the disease, Biden added: “It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential."
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 first trip to Asia as president.
“They haven’t told me the level of exposure yet but it is something that everybody should be concerned about,” Biden said. He added that work was underway to determine what vaccine might be effective.
Although the disease belongs to the same virus family as smallpox, its symptoms are milder. People usually recover within two to four weeks without needing to be hospitalized, but the disease occasionally is deadly.
The World Health Organization said it expects to identify more cases of monkeypox as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is not typically found.
Monkeypox is rarely identified outside of Africa. But as of Saturday, 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported from 12 member states that are not endemic for the virus, the UN agency said, adding it will provide further guidance and recommendations in coming days for countries on how to mitigate the spread of monkeypox.
"Available information suggests that human-to-human transmission is occurring among people in close physical contact with cases who are symptomatic", the agency added.