WA Health: Monkeypox virus update

WA Health has confirmed a case of monkeypox virus in a returned overseas traveller in Western Australia.

The case is in isolation in Perth, with WA Health monitoring their condition and remains well. Public health has commenced contact tracing.

While the risk to the community from this case is low, returned travellers are being urged to monitor for symptoms of the monkeypox virus.

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

“We are asking the community to continue 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, either by direct contact with open lesions or prolonged face to face contact, or with material contaminated with the virus.”

“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.”

“While the current overseas outbreak has disproportionately impacted men who have sex with men, anyone who has had close contact with a person with monkeypox is advised to self-monitor for symptoms.

“People who develop symptoms of monkeypox should isolate, wear a mask and contact their GP or a sexual health clinic, who can advise about testing for monkeypox.”

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that is endemic in Central or West Africa, though there has been a global increase in monkeypox cases reported from non-endemic countries since May 2022. The highest numbers of cases are being reported in European countries, the United Kingdom and North America, however cases are being identified across the world.

WA Health continues to monitor an emergence of monkeypox virus infections in the eastern states and internationally, with 53 cases recorded in Australia, as of 2 August 2022. There have been zero cases recorded in Western Australia to date.

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.

Advice for people with symptoms:

Anyone who develops symptoms, particularly if they have recently travelled overseas or had contact with a case, should:

  • phone the sexual health helpline for advice – 9227 6178 (metro) and 1800 198 205 (country)
  • if living in the Perth metropolitan area, call ahead and make an appointment at a sexual health clinic, Sexual Health Quarters or the M Clinic (for men only)
  • call their GP for a telehealth appointment
  • ·or seek care at their nearest hospital (call ahead and wear a mask).

Background:

Visit HealthyWA.

See this factsheet from the World Health Organisation.

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