Since May, more than 700 global cases of monkeypox have been identified in countries outside West and Central Africa where the virus is endemic.
Although no deaths have been reported so far, the highly unusual outbreak has health officials around the world scrambling to understand how the virus spreads and make sure there are enough vaccines and treatments available in case it accelerates.
“We should expect to see more cases and more tests in the coming days,” Raj Panjabi, senior director for Global Health Security and Biodefense at the White House, said during the news conference.
The World Health Organization said last week that the outbreak posed a “moderate” risk to global public health. On Thursday, Maria Van Kerkhove, who leads the emerging diseases and zoonoses teams at the WHO, said the organization suspects human-to-human transmission has been occurring for weeks in Europe.
The CDC maintains the risk to Americans is “low” but holds regular briefings on the status of the outbreak. Most cases in the US have been among men who identify as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men, but health officials warn the disease can spread through close contact between any individual.
The federal government has distributed 1,200 smallpox and monkeypox vaccines and 100 courses of treatment to eight states to inoculate close contacts of monkeypox patients. More than 340 contacts of confirmed cases have been identified, with more than 20 considered “high” risk and more than 120 considered “intermediate” risk.
The first cases in the US were confirmed in mid-May in Massachusetts and New York, with cases subsequently confirmed in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.
Federal health officials are urging doctors to send samples from suspected cases to a network of labs across the country that can test for monkeypox, or orthopox, a related virus.
The Strategic National Stockpile contains doses of two vaccines that can be used to prevent and treat monkeypox: a newer two-dose vaccine approved for monkeypox and smallpox called Jynneos, and an older vaccine approved for use against smallpox, but can be used for monkeypox, called ACAM2000.
On Friday, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell declined to say how many doses of either were in storage, citing national security. “We have enough vaccine available to handle the current outbreak,” she said.
O’Connell said the vaccines were placed on SNS sites across the country and there were additional doses of the Jynneos vaccine in storage with the manufacturer, Bavarian Nordic.
Last month, the CDC said the SNS contained more than 1,000 doses of Jyenneos and more than 100 million doses of ACAM2000. The agency said on Friday that the Jynneos figures were no longer accurate, but declined to elaborate on whether fewer or more doses were now available.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.