The deadly monkeypox virus is spreading to Australia, officials fear, after a New South Wales man was infected.
A warning has been issued urging men who have sex with men to be aware of symptoms of Mpox, with Thursday’s case in Sydney being the first detected in six months in the state.
Sydney South East Public Health Unit Director Dr Vicky Sheppard said that although the state’s vaccination program against the infectious disease has been very successful, the virus will continue to emerge in Australia as it circulates overseas.
All of the Mpox cases in NSW have been in men who have sex with men and most have been detected while traveling to other countries.
The man found infected with the virus this month had no association with overseas travel, raising fears of local transmission.
The main symptom of Mpox – formerly known as monkeypox – are red skin lesions
There were 56 cases of Mpox found between May and November 2022 in New South Wales.
Dr Sheppeard said there had been high uptake of the Mpox vaccination and urged anyone who had not yet had the vaccine to get it if they were in a risk group.
“Although our Mpox vaccination programme, combined with monitoring for symptoms of those at risk, has been very successful in controlling the spread in New South Wales, as long as cases continue in other countries, it there is a risk of new cases here,” Dr Sheppeard said.
She urged anyone with symptoms to see their GP or sexual health clinic.
Symptoms of the virus, usually endemic in a few African countries, include mild fever, headache, fatigue or swollen lymph nodes.
The most obvious symptom is the presence of small pimple-like lesions on the skin, which spread and develop pus and then a scab.
People at high risk of catching Mpox are urged to get vaccinated against the disease
Since May 2022, there has been a global outbreak of Mpox with over 87,000 reported cases, primarily affecting gay or bisexual men.
Although overseas there are deaths associated with it, all of the cases in NSW have recovered and very few have required hospitalization.
Cases stabilized nationally in late September, with an outbreak in Victoria declared to have “turned around” that month.
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said the country had recorded about 135 total infections since the virus arrived.
The government last August signed a deal for nearly half a million doses of monkeypox vaccine with biotech company Bavarian Nordic.
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