The Australian CMO, Professor Paul Kelly, followed the example of the World Health Organization (WHO) by declaring monkey pox (MPX) a communicable disease incident of national significance.
Most cases in Australia have been diagnosed in people between the ages of 21 and 40. Confirmed and probable cases of MPX nowadays including 24 in New South Wales, 16 in Victoria, two in the Australian Capital Territory, one in Queensland and one in South Australia.
Official advice states that MPX rashes and flu-like symptoms are “relatively mild” and will clear up in two to four weeks without treatment.
In a statement Thursday, Kelly said MPX usually occurs on the face before spreading to other parts of the body, including the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
“However, in this outbreak, it is mostly seen on the genital and perianal regions of those affected,” Kelly said.
“The rash can vary from person to person and take on the appearance of pimples, blisters or sores.
“Flu-like symptoms often include fever, chills, body aches, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue.”
Monkeypox is less transmissible than COVID-19 and less harmful, according to government advice.
Kelly said at least 20,311 cases of MPX were reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) in 71 countries between January 1 and July 28, 2022.
“In Australia, there have been 44 cases, the majority of which were in returning international travellers,” Kelly said.
“No deaths have been reported during the current outbreak outside of countries where the virus is endemic,” he said.
Professor Kelly explained that the declaration enables national coordination to help states and territories effectively manage outbreaks within their jurisdictions. Since May, he said, the federal government has been working with stakeholders, state and territory health departments to ensure a “rapid and coordinated” MPX response.
“The decision to declare MPX a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance was made as part of the Contingency Plan for Communicable Disease Incidents of National Significance, in consultation with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee“, said Kelly.
“The National Medical Stockpile has an available stockpile of MPX treatments, such as antivirals, which states and territories can access upon request,” he added.
Clinical advice on vaccination against the disease has been updated by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ATAGI), and preparation for the supply of the third generation vaccine to be carried out in Australia is underway.
Prof Kelly said most cases of MPX have been diagnosed in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men patients. Although MPX is not generally considered a sexually transmitted infection, he warned, intimate behaviors such as kissing, cuddling and sexual activity posed a risk of infection.
“Physical contact with an infected person during sexual intercourse carries a significant risk of transmission, with infectious skin lesions being the likely mode of transmission,” he said.
Paul Kelly officially promoted to chief medical officer