ACT records first two monkeypox cases in returning travellers

act health chief health officer kerryn coleman monkeypox cases canberra mild symptoms isolation
Images: ACT Government, US CDC

Two cases of monkeypox have been recorded in the ACT, two travellers who have returned to Canberra from Europe.

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection usually associated with travel to Central and West Africa.

However since May, dozens of countries that are not endemic for the virus have reported over 9000 cases, predominantly in Europe and also the United States.

In Australia, there have been two dozen monkeypox cases in Australia, including 16 in NSW, six in Victoria, and one each in South Australia and Queensland.

On Wednesday, ACT Health identified the first two cases of the virus in the nation’s capital.

ACT Health said both cases had travelled to Europe and recently returned to Canberra. Both are isolating at home and have reported mild symptoms.

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said the risk of community transmission was low, and the disease not easily spread between people.

She said further transmission of monkeypox would normally require direct skin-to-skin or prolonged face-to-face contact.

“Illness associated with the monkeypox virus is usually mild, although complications can occur,” Dr Coleman said.

“Symptoms may initially include fever, chills, muscle aches, backache, and swollen lymph nodes.

“Following these symptoms, a rash usually develops, that spreads to other parts of the body. The rash changes and goes through stages, like chickenpox, before finally becoming a scab.

“If you have these symptoms, you should stay at home and phone your GP clinic to organise a telehealth appointment in the first instance, or you can phone the Canberra Sexual Health Clinic on (02) 5124 2184.”

Monkeypox cases recover within weeks but symptoms can be very painful

Many of the cases in the new international monkeypox outbreak are men who have sex with men. However the WHO has warned against stigma and stressed the virus can transmit to anyone.

While monkeypox can be serious, the US CDC has reported most cases in the new outbreak fully recover within two to four weeks, without the need for treatment.

Monkeypox spreads through skin-to-skin contact, contact with contaminated items or surfaces, or prolonged exposure to respiratory droplets.

In the past month, gay men in the United States have shared their painful and uncomfortable experiences of contracting monkeypox, including a gay man in a candid PSA on TikTok.

Earlier this week, Queensland Health recorded the state’s first confirmed case of monkeypox, a resident in Brisbane.

Last week, NSW Health warned they believe two of that state’s 16 cases were likely contracted within Australia.

NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty said at the time local transmission may be occurring, especially among men who have sex with men.

“People need to be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox, which can include fever, headache, body aches and a rash or lesions on the genital area,” he said.

“So far, in the cases we have seen in NSW, monkeypox is not presenting the way some people expect, such as an extensive rash or lesions all over the body.

“It could just be a couple of what seem to be pimples in the genital area or buttocks. So people need to pay careful attention to any potential symptoms.”

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