Top 3 questions – Monkeypox
Dr Lucas De Toca, COVID-19 Primary Care Response First Assistant Secretary, talks about Monkeypox.
Hello, I'm Dr Lucas De Toca, and I work in the Department of Health in Public Health. You might have heard about the unfortunately named monkeypox outbreaks around the world, as well as a couple of cases in Australia. Monkeypox, or MPX, is a disease which is endemic to parts of Central and Western Africa. It is related to, but much milder than, smallpox. It's usually transmitted from animals to humans, but human to human transmission can occur. People with MPX often present with fever, with headaches, general aches, just the kind of feeling that you get when you get high fever, and also swollen lymph nodes. After a few days, a very characteristic rash usually appears on the face, and then spreads to other parts of the body. It may also appear on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, inside the mouth, or on the genitalia. However, in some cases, it can present as a smaller, more localised rash. It's got a relatively long incubation period, up to 21 days in some cases, which means that it can take up to 21 days for the symptoms to show after a person is exposed to the virus.
In most cases, the infection is usually a mild and self-limiting illness, with most people recovering within a few weeks. However, complications can occur, and it can be more severe in some groups, particularly severely immunocompromised people, for example. The virus can be transmitted from human to human through contact with lesions on the skin, body fluids, including respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as linen and towels. Transmission via respiratory droplets usually requires prolonged face-to-face contact. Transmission can occur through intimate physical contact, with infectious skin lesions being the likely mode of transmission in that case. That partly helps to explain how some of the clusters that we are seeing across the world are closely linked, and within specific groups. Vaccines designed for smallpox are likely to be effective against monkeypox as well. The National Medical Stockpile here in Australia is working with states and territories to ensure supplies of vaccines are available if required. Medical experts are working on developing treatment and vaccination guidelines for managing monkeypox, should the outbreak grow. Guidance has been provided to public health units and providers to make sure that the clinicians can recognise the symptoms of the disease and help isolate and manage cases. Australian travellers returning from or going to countries where cases have been identified are urged to be aware of the signs of the infection, particularly any unexplained rash in returned travellers or contacts, and to seek medical help if they think they may be at risk. The Government is working closely with state and territory governments to monitor and respond to the evolving situation. It is important to stay up to date with information available on health.gov.au.
We know everyone is still tired after two years of pandemic, and we are working very hard to ensure this MPX outbreak is contained. Thank you all for watching, and for staying up to date.
Monkeypox (MPX) has recently been identified in Australia. As of 2 June, there are 3 confirmed cases of MPX in Australia. To find out more, hear from Dr Lucas de Toca on #MPX.