Western Australian health department on alert for Monkeypox cases

WA Health have announced that they are monitoring the emergence of monkeypox virus infections in the eastern states and internationally, and are looking out for local cases.

One probable case of the virus has been detected in New South Wales and another case identified in Victoria. Both cases had returned from travel overseas.

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that is usually linked to travel to Central or West Africa, though it has been identified in other locations in recent weeks, including several European countries and the United States. The spread of the virus is being monitored by the World Health Organisation.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Paul Armstrong said that WA Health had issued an alert to clinicians at GPs and hospitals across the State, with information on how to diagnose and manage cases of monkeypox.

“There have been no cases detected in Western Australia so far, but we are asking clinicians to be vigilant and watch for signs of the virus,” Dr Armstrong said.

“Monkeypox is spread to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus.

“Many of the recently recorded cases have occurred in men who have sex with men.” Dr Armstrong highlighted.

“This virus does not spread easily among people – though you can get it through very close contact with someone.

“The virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.

“The infection usually causes a mild illness and most people recover within a few weeks.”

The initial symptoms of the illness include fever, headache, and sometimes sore throat, cough, and enlarged lymph nodes. A rash then develops which can be widespread or localised to a specific part of the body.

Anyone with concerns that they could be infected with monkeypox virus is advised to consult their general practitioner or a sexual health clinic. The two cases in the Eastern states are the first time the virus has been detected in Australia.

In Europe many of the recent outbreaks of the rare disease have been traced back to gay men, and other men who have sex with men.

In Spain, a sauna was identified as a site that many people being diagnosed with the virus had visited. While many of the cases in Belgium were linked to a recent fetish festival that took place in early May. Most of the cases in the United Kingdom have also been linked to the LGBTIQA+ communities.

Experts have stressed that the Monkeypox is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection, and it is important to ensure that there is not stigma around being diagnosed with the infection.

Writing in The Conversion, public health expert Professor Andrew Lee from the university of Sheffield  said there was a real danger of more stigma being added to the lives of LGBTIQA+ people.

“They have suffered tremendously over the years with the stigma attached to infectious disease, most notably with the HIV/Aids pandemic, and there is still a strong undercurrent of homophobia even in countries with strong LGBTQ+ rights. This is despite a lot of effort by the LGBTQ+ community, public education programs and equal rights legislation to tackle stigmatisation.” Professor Lee wrote.

The health expert stressed that the world needed to learn from the experience of HIV/AIDS which had shown the negative effects that can occur when one group of people is faced to deal with increased stigma.

“While a high proportion of cases have so far occurred among men who have sex with men, in part this reflects their social networks. It could just as easily have been an outbreak in a heterosexual friendship network, or a group of sports people, or occupational group, or other social groups.” Professor Lee said.

The most recent update from the World Health Organisation shows that over 90 cases have been diagnosed in recent weeks across 12 different countries. Locations include Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the USA. These are countries where the virus is rarely found, and many nations are documenting there first ever cases.

In some African countries the infection is much more prolific, and cases are more commonplace in Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Deomocratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.

OIP Staff

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