Monkeypox may be spreading in Australia after New South Wales found infections among the state’s 11 confirmed cases that could have been locally transmitted.
NSW Health says nine of the infections were likely acquired abroad, but two could be local cases, suggesting community transmission could occur, especially in men who have sex with men.
“People should be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox, including fever, headache, body aches and rash or lesions on the genital area,” Jeremy McAnulty, NSW Health’s executive director of health protection, said Wednesday.
He said the cases showed no serious symptoms, such as an extensive rash or lesions all over the body.
But McAnulty warned that even minor symptoms like pimples in the genital area or buttocks should be taken seriously.
“The virus is mainly spread through skin-to-skin contact… It is important that people with symptoms avoid close contact with others, including sexual activity.”
Monkeypox is primarily found in Central and West Africa, often near tropical rainforests, and is considered endemic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it was first discovered in humans in 1970.
The disease can be passed from person to person through air droplets, close physical contact, or sharing contaminated bedding or objects.
Australia has joined a growing list of countries affected by the rare tropical disease, including Italy, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, the US and the UK.
There is no room for complacency around the current outbreak, the World Health Organization said earlier this month, noting that the number of cases in Europe tripled in just over two weeks, with some infections identified in children.
In a statement on July 1, Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, urged governments and the public to step up efforts to prevent the disease from expanding its geographic reach.
“Urgent and coordinated action is necessary if we are to turn a corner in the race to reverse the ongoing spread of this disease,” he said.
According to Kluge, more than 90% of confirmed cases in the latest outbreak were in the Europe region, with cases reported in 31 countries and territories.
He said confirmed cases in the area had more than tripled to more than 4,500 since June 15.
Most of the cases for which information is available have been in men who have sex with men, although some cases have been identified in other demographics, including children.