Australia records first cases of Monkeypox, gay men asked to be alert

ACON is urging gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men in NSW that have recently returned from overseas travel to watch for symptoms for MPXV, commonly known as ‘monkeypox’.

It follows the identification by NSW Health of a probable case of MPXV in Sydney of a recently returned traveller to Europe. There has also been a confirmed case in Melbourne.

Cases of MPXV have been confirmed in non-endemic countries across Europe and North America. This includes the UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, the US and Canada.

A large proportion of cases detected overseas are among gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.

MPXV has not previously been described as a STI though it can spread in sexual networks through direct contact during sex and contact with clothing or linens used by a person who has MPXV.

“We urge gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men to look out for symptoms, especially those who have recently travelled overseas in Europe and the US,” ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said.

“We particularly urge those who attended dance parties, sex parties or saunas in Europe to be vigilant for compatible symptoms. Anyone with symptoms, particularly a rash, should call their GP or local sexual health clinic by phone or telehealth. You can also call NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.”

MPXV is a rare viral infection that does not spread easily between people and is usually associated with travel to Central or West Africa, where it is endemic.

Symptoms of MPXV include fever, malaise, headache, and sometimes sore throat and cough, and swollen lymph nodes. Following symptoms, lesions begin in the mouth and spread to the face, arms and legs.

Person-to-person transmission is mainly through respiratory droplets or direct contact with lesion material.

There are some therapies available for the treatment of MPXV, particularly for people at high-risk such as those who are immunosuppressed. However, many cases are usually a mild self-limiting illness and most people recover within a few weeks.

With the situation rapidly evolving, Parkhill said it’s vital people remain calm and follow public health advice: “Given what we know at the moment about MPXV overseas, it’s important that we stay informed, don’t panic and take decisions that are good for our health and our communities’ health.”

“Our experience over the past two years of living through the pandemic demonstrates how effective our response can be when we are guided by evidence, keep ourselves up-to-date and always follow public health advice.”

Parkhill also urged people to be mindful about stigma when it comes to new viral outbreaks and infections, and to challenge prejudice and discrimination.

“Through our experience with the HIV/AIDS crisis, our communities understand just how devastating and hurtful the impact of prejudice and stigma can be. It’s important we remember that viruses do not discriminate, and neither should we.”

ACON is continuing to monitor developments and will provide updates to our communities as the situation evolves.

“In the meantime, let’s continue applying measures that help us all stay safe such as practicing good hygiene, self-isolating when unwell and seeking medical attention when displaying symptoms,” Parkhill said.

New South Wales Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant also highlighted the need for gay and bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men, to be particularly vigilant in looking out for the disease.

“A large proportion of the cases detected overseas are amongst gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men, and we’re particularly urging men who are gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men, to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact by phone the sexual health clinic or GP without delay if they have any concerns.” Dr Chant said.

“It is important top be particularly vigilant if you have returned from overseas from large parties or sex on premises venues overseas.”

Read the official government advice about Monkeypox.

OIP Staff

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