Western Australia records first case of Monkeypox virus


Health officials have announced that Western Australia has reported its first case of Monkeypox. A recently returned overseas traveler has tested positive for the virus and is now isolating.

The WA Health Department has now started contact tracing, but say the risk to other people is considered to be low.

The Communicable Disease Control Directorate’s director, Paul Armstrong, said returned travellers, particularly from areas with high numbers of monkeypox cases, should remain vigilant.

“Monkeypox is spread to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, either by direct contact with open lesions or prolonged face-to-face contact, or with material contaminated with the virus,” Dr Armstrong said in a statement.

“A person with monkeypox can transmit the infection to other people through skin lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.

“The initial symptoms of the illness may include flu-like symptoms such as fever or headache. A rash typically develops that appears as bumps, pimples or sores, and develops into fluid-filled lesions, pustules or ulcers. The rash can be widespread or localised to one area.”

The virus which is usually only seen in specific areas of Africa has been spreading across the world for several months. The first Australian case was reported in May.

Cases have been predominantly found within the LGBTIQA+ communities, but experts have stressed that the infection is not specifically sexually transmitted, and everybody is susceptible.

There has been concern that stigma and discrimination surrounding those who contract the virus will hamper efforts to tackle the spread of infections.

As of 2nd August 2002 there were 52 cases in Australia, while globally the virus has been reported in more than 80 countries.

The Australian cases include 30 in New South Wales, 19 in Victoria, 2 in the Australian Capital Territory, 1 in Queensland and 1 in South Australia.

The infection usually causes a mild illness and most people recover within two to four weeks, however some people such as infants and immunosuppressed people, can be at higher risk of severe disease.

Anyone with concerns that they could be infected with monkeypox virus is advised to consult a sexual health clinic or their general practitioner. It is advised to phone ahead and notify the clinic of concerns of monkeypox and wear a mask when attending the clinic.

WA Health will initially receive a limited supply of vaccines for monkeypox within the coming days. These vaccines will be prioritised for the highest risk groups and plans for roll-out of the vaccine are being formulated.

Yesterday the federal government announced it had acquired 450,000 doses of the new vaccine with 22,000 set to arrive in Australia this week.

Graeme Watson 

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