Australia’s top doctor sounds the alarm over monkeypox and calls the disease an ‘incident of national significance’ – here’s what it means for you
- Australian CMO has declared monkeypox an ‘incident of national significance’
- Professor Paul Kelly’s declaration means the virus will require national policies
- Two smallpox vaccines have been recommended to protect against monkeypox
- Australia recorded 44 cases of monkeypox, mostly from international tourists
Monkeypox has been declared an ‘incident of national significance’ by Australia’s top doctor, despite the nation racking up just 44 cases.
Professor Paul Kelly’s dramatic declaration on Thursday means the virus will now require national policies, intervention and public messaging – not unlike how Covid was dealt with.
Australia’s paltry number of cases is in stark comparison to the infections overseas, with it spreading throughout Europe and the US recording more than 1,000 new cases.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly declared monkeypox as an ‘incident of national significance’
The declaration follows the World Health Organization‘s announcement on Wednesday that monkeypox virus is to be treated as a ‘public health emergency of international concern’.
More than 20,000 monkeypox cases have been recorded in 71 countries which have no previous record of the virus, including Australia where 44 cases have been reported.
The virus has existed for many years but is usually contained to portions of west and central Africa where it is endemic, meaning it circulates among the population regularly.
The majority of Australia’s cases have been reported in returned international travellers.
However, Mr Kelly reassured Australians the virus is far less harmful than Covid, with serious disease or death very unlikely.
‘Monkeypox is also not transmitted in the same way as Covid and is far less transmissible,’ he said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared monkeypox a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ on Wednesday
‘Monkeypox 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.’
Monkeypox can cause a wide range of symptoms that varying in severity from case to case.
Symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes.
These symptoms are accompanied by a rash identified by pus-filled lesions that lasts between two and three weeks.
The WHO says a person is no longer infectious once the lesions have ‘crusted over, the scabs fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed underneath’.
The virus can spread from animals to people as well as person to person through body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated surfaces.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has recommended two smallpox vaccines to protect against the monkeypox virus
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommended the use of two smallpox vaccines to immunise the population against monkeypox in response to growing concerns.
The two specific vaccines it recommends are third generation JYNNEOS and second generation ACAM2000.
‘Monkeypox is usually a self-limiting illness, and most people recover within a few weeks. However, severe illness can occur, particularly in immunocompromised people,’ it said.
ATAG advised supplies of the vaccine have been secured by some states and territories.
Professor Kelly said the majority of cases in Australia have been detected in men who have sex with men, which has also been reported overseas.
MONKEYPOX QUICK FACTS
What is it?
Monkeypox is a viral infection that spreads from animals to people and person to person.
What are the symptoms?
The disease’s most recognisable symptoms is a rash which can last two to three weeks.
It can be found on the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, eyes, mouth, throat, groin, and genital and/or anal regions of the body.
The most common symptoms include a fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes.
The severity of symptoms changes from case to case. Some people will experience mild symptoms while others will feel them severely.
People at higher risk of severe disease include people who are pregnant, children and the immunocompromised.
Can you die from monkeypox?
Most cases of monkeypox heal on their own within a few weeks. However, severe cases of the disease can result in serious complications or death.
Newborn babies, children and people with underlying immunity problems may be at risk of more serious symptoms and death from monkeypox.
Complications from the disease can include secondary skin infections, pneumonia, confusion and eye problems.
Source: World Health Organisation