Monkeypox infection suspected in New York City; US pharma stocks rally

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that usually begins with flu-like symptoms. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - A possible case of monkeypox is being investigated in New York City, adding to the case already reported in Massachusetts, health officials said on Thursday (May 19).

The city's health department announced on Twitter that the patient is being cared for at Bellevue Hospital, located in Manhattan's Kips Bay neighbourhood.

Preliminary tests for the virus are being conducted, officials said, and if positive will be sent to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmation.

On May 17, the United States identified its first case this year, adding to the growing number of confirmed and suspected infections in Britain, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

The Massachusetts Health Department reported on Wednesday the case of an adult male who had recently travelled to Canada, where more than a dozen monkeypox infections have been identified.

The man travelled via private transport, according to the CDC, which said it is working with Massachusetts health officials on monitoring the situation.

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that usually begins with flu-like symptoms before progressing to a rash, which could be confused with sexually transmitted infections like syphilis or herpes.

Infections usually last from two to four weeks, according to the CDC.

Shares of companies that develop or make therapies to combat viral outbreaks, such as SIGA Technologies and Emergent BioSolutions, rallied on Thursday as news of an increasing number of monkeypox cases emerged.

SIGA, a biological warfare defence firm, rose 17 per cent after rallying as much as 32 per cent in its biggest intraday jump since 2016 when fears of Zika contagion were roiling the market.

The company won US regulatory approval for a liquid form of its smallpox capsule today. The treatment, dubbed Tpoxx, is approved in Europe for use in monkeypox and was cited in a recent budget request to treat a US patient with the disease, the company said in a statement.

Contract manufacturer Emergent, which is facing a congressional probe over quality control issues in its production of Covid-19 vaccines, rallied 12 per cent, its biggest one-day jump since July 2020.

On Monday, Chimerix said it was selling its smallpox treatment to Emergent for as much as US$337.5 million (S$$466 million) plus royalties.

The Massachusetts Health Department reported on May 18 the case of an adult male who had recently travelled to Canada. PHOTO: REUTERS

All three may be familiar names to investors after they made big moves amid past potential pandemic threats like Zika and Ebola in 2014, as well as at the start of the Covid-19 epidemic.

There are no proven, safe treatments for monkeypox, according to the CDC, but in the US, smallpox vaccines and antivirals can be used to fight the virus, the agency said.

Chimerix climbed 22 per cent, while Inovio Pharmaceuticals - which was developing a Covid-19 vaccine before the US government pulled funding last year - gained 7.1 per cent.

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