Confirmed cases have been identified in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States – who had between one and five confirmed monkeypox cases as of Saturday, WHO said.
“The situation is evolving and WHO expects more cases of monkeypox to be identified as surveillance expands in non-endemic countries,” the press 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 that we understand, we have vaccines for it, we have treatments for it, and it spreads very differently than SARS-CoV-2” – the virus that causes Covid-19, Jha told ABC Raddatz’s Martha on Sunday.
“It’s not as contagious as Covid. So I’m confident we’ll manage to wrap our arms around it,” said Jha. “But we will be monitoring it very closely and using the tools at our disposal to ensure we can continue to prevent further spread and care for the people who become infected.”
Health experts say close contact with an infected person is required to spread the monkeypox virus.
Infection can develop after contact with “ruptured skin, mucous membranes, respiratory droplets, infected bodily fluids or even contact with contaminated linen,” according to Neil Mabbott, personal chair in immunopathology at the University of Edinburgh School of Veterinary Medicine in Scotland.
Though experts say monkeypox isn’t 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’s something everyone should be concerned about,” Biden told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins as he left South Korea on Sunday.
“We’re working hard to figure out what we’re doing and what vaccine, if any, might be available for it,” Biden said. “It’s worrying in that there would be consequences if it were to spread. That’s all they told me.”
CNN previously reported that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is evaluating whether a smallpox vaccine should be offered to health workers treating monkeypox patients and others who may be at “high risk” of exposure to monkeypox.
The variola virus, which causes smallpox, and the monkeypox virus are related in some ways, as they are both members of the genus Orthopoxvirus, which belong to the scientific family of “smallpox” viruses. Therefore, some of the same vaccines given to prevent smallpox have also been shown to prevent monkeypox.
Initial monkeypox symptoms are typically flu-like, with fever, chills, fatigue, headache, and muscle weakness.
“One feature that distinguishes monkeypox infection from smallpox infection is the development of swollen lymph nodes,” the CDC said.
The painful, raised pox is pearly and fluid-filled, often surrounded by red circles. The lesions eventually crust over and resolve over a period of two to three weeks, the CDC said.
“We have a level of scientific concern about what we are seeing because this is a very unusual situation,” McQuiston told CNN on Thursday.
“We’re not seeing it in the United States or in Europe — and the number of reported cases is definitely outside of normal levels for what we would see,” McQuiston said.
A senior British health official told the BBC on Sunday that people should be aware of monkeypox – but that the risk to the general population “remains extremely low at the moment”.
“I think people need to pay attention to that,” said Susan Hopkins, senior medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency.
“We really want clinicians to pay attention and send in the test if they’re concerned.”
Hopkins said, based on reports from Africa, the UKHSA knows that certain people are “at much higher risk of serious illnesses, particularly those who are immunocompromised or young children”.
While there is “no direct vaccine for monkeypox,” “We use a form of smallpox vaccine, or third-generation smallpox vaccine, that is safe for people who are contactees of cases,” Hopkins said.
CNN’s Sandee LaMotte, Jamie Gumbrecht, Keith Allen, Kevin Liptak, Jacqueline Howard, and Martin Goillandeau contributed to this report.