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White House COVID-19 Adviser Dr. Ashish Jha has assured Americans that monkeypox poses a “pretty small” threat to the general population even as the World Health Organization (WHO) declares an emergency.
“No Americans have died of monkeypox in this outbreak,” Jha said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t know globally – I think it’s a very small number – but zero Americans have died of monkeypox, so the risk to the broader population is pretty small.”
WHO declared that the monkeypox virus is now a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged on Saturday that the level of transmission previously did not meet the criteria, but it has since continued to grow.
More than 75 countries and territories have now reported over 16,000 cases, with five confirmed deaths.
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Jha said he agreed with the call since many countries do not have the necessary resources to handle an outbreak while still grappling with issues related to COVID-19, but stressed that the United States is prepared for the virus and could handle it, keeping the risk for Americans low.
“I’m supportive of it,” he said. “I think Dr. Tedros made the right call. We are seeing monkeypox in lots of countries around the world, many of them not doing – not really being able to manage it.”
“Here in the United States, we have a little over 2,000 cases,” he continued. “We have substantially ramped up testing, we have substantially ramped up vaccinations.”
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Jha advised that the US will hold off on declaring its own state of emergency regarding monkeypox, explaining that any such decision would depend on “the facts on the ground” and what the declaration would allow health officials and services to do.
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Jha also has focused over the past few days on President Biden’s COVID-19 infection, ensuring the public that White House medical personnel and advisers have been transparent throughout the process – including the revelation that officials have identified and tracked 17 individuals who made contact with the president and may be infected.
“None of them have tested positive,” Jha said. “Obviously, all of them continue to follow CDC protocols on masking and testing but as of today, no one that I know of has tested positive.”
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Jha highlighted the fact that Biden has had two vaccine shots and two booster shots, which he said has led to him dealing with a “relatively mild” infection.
Fox News’ Julia Musto contributed to this report.