I have declared the unfolding situation regarding monkeypox (MPX) in Australia to be a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance.
This follows the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the global situation regarding MPX to be a public health emergency of international concern.
The latest data from 1 January to 28 July 2022 as reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) indicates there have been 20,311 MPX cases in 71 countries (including Australia) that have not historically reported MPX.
In Australia, there have been 44 cases – the majority of which have been within returned international travellers.
It is important to note that although I have declared MPX to be a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance, it is far less harmful than COVID-19 and there have been no deaths reported during the current outbreak outside of countries where the virus is endemic.
MPX is also not transmitted in the same way as COVID-19 – and is far less transmissible.
The decision to declare MPX a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance was made under the Emergency Response Plan for Communicable Disease Incidents of National Significance, in consultation with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.
Since May, Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care public health experts have engaged with at-risk communities in partnership with key stakeholders and have been working very closely with their counterparts in state and territory health departments to ensure our response to MPX has been swift and coordinated.
The National Incident Centre has been activated to provide enhanced national coordination to assist states and territories to effectively manage the outbreaks within their jurisdictions.
MPX’s rash and flu-like symptoms are relatively mild, and in most cases, resolve themselves within two to four weeks without the need for specific treatments.
Most cases of MPX in Australia have been among people aged 21 to 40 years. The experience internationally and in Australia to date is most cases have been among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
Although MPX is not usually considered a sexually transmissible infection, physical contact with an infected person during sexual intercourse carries a significant risk of transmission and intimate physical contact such as hugging, kissing and sexual activities represent a risk of infection, with infectious skin sores being the likely mode of transmission.
The rash 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 being seen especially on the genital and perianal regions of affected people.
The rash can vary from person to person and take on the appearance of pimples, blisters or sores. The flu-like symptoms often include fever, chills, body aches, headaches, swollen lymph nodes and tiredness.
The National Medical Stockpile has available stock of MPX treatments, such as antivirals, for states and territories to access on request.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has updated clinical guidance on vaccination against monkeypox using the ACAM2000 vaccine to include the use of MVA-BN vaccine to prepare for supplies of the third-generation vaccine being made available in Australia.
Further information about monkeypox is available from the Department of Health and Aged Care’s website www.health.gov.au/health-topics/monkeypox-mpx