Biden on Monkeypox: Outbreak should pique ‘everyone’s interest’, as health experts baffled

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President Joe Biden said Sunday that the new outbreak of monkeypox should worry “everyone,” as it continues to confuse medical officials around the world.

Everyone should be worried [it]Biden said in South Korea, while speaking with a group of reporters before boarding Air Force One for Japan, Reuters reported.

The president’s comments come as several outbreaks of monkeypox have been reported in Africa, followed by other cases reported in Europe and the United States.

“We’re working on it, and it’s hard to know what we’re doing,” Biden added.

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While there are at least 80 confirmed cases of the disease worldwide and another 50 suspected, the United States has only confirmed two cases after a man in Massachusetts was diagnosed with the disease. Another man in New York City tested positive for monkeypox.

US President Joe Biden speaks before boarding Air Force One on a flight to Japan at Osan Air Force Base, Sunday, May 22, 2022, in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Cases have been reported in Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the United States, Sweden and Canada, all by individuals with no travel history with Africa. France, Germany, Belgium and Australia also reported confirmed cases this week.

While no deaths associated with monkeypox have been reported, this global phenomenon has baffled medical experts.

“This stunned me. Every day I wake up and there are more countries infected,” said Owewell Tomori, a virologist and member of the WHO’s advisory board.

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“This is not the kind of spread we’ve seen in West Africa, so there may be something new going on in the West,” he added.

This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and immature spheroids, right.

This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and immature spheroids, right.
(Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/Center for Disease Control via AP)

Christian Happe, director of the African Center for Excellence in Infectious Disease Genomics, similarly said he had “never seen anything like what was happening in Europe”.

According to estimates by the World Health Organization, monkeypox can be fatal to up to one in ten people, although its similarity to the smallpox virus allows smallpox vaccines to provide some protection.

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The two viruses also share similar symptoms.

An image created during an investigation into an outbreak of monkeypox, which occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from 1996 to 1997, shows the hands of a patient with a rash due to monkeypox, in this undated image obtained by Reuters May 18 2022.

An image created during an investigation into an outbreak of monkeypox, which occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from 1996 to 1997, shows the hands of a patient with a rash due to monkeypox, in this undated image obtained by Reuters May 18 2022.
(CDC/Brian WJ Mahy/Posted via REUTERS)

Symptoms appear 1-2 weeks after infection, and initially include flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and shortness of breath. After about five days, the eruption phase begins where the rash appears and often spreads to different areas of the body.

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Monkeypox, unlike smallpox, causes the lymph nodes to swell.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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