‘Incredibly painful’: Monkeypox cases in Victoria grow

monkeypox cdc hands lesions
Image: courtesy of CDC

About two-thirds of Victoria’s monkeypox cases have been locally acquired, with new warnings that monkeypox symptoms can mirror STIs like herpes or syphilis.

As of September 8, 129 confirmed or probable cases of the virus have been detected in Australia since May.

Victoria has recorded 67, more than half and the most infections of the states and territories. More than 40 of those being locally acquired, according to contact tracing in the state.

Seventeen of Victoria’s cases are active, while eight people have gone to hospital as a result of the virus.

Elsewhere, there are 50 in New South Wales, 5 in Western Australia, 3 in Queensland, 2 in the ACT, and 2 in South Australia.

Professor Marcus Chen from Melbourne’s Sexual Health Centre has said around one-quarter of the more than 40 Victorian patients his team have diagnosed needed hospital intervention.

Some of the patients have suffered more than 100 painful lesions, he told The Age.

“They’re basically covered in over 100 lumps from head to toe. It can quite be disfiguring and, obviously, highly stigmatising,” Prof Chen said.

“It’s actually incredible how painful these ulcers are.”

Some patients with monkeypox have needed heavy painkillers. A handful have also needed a powerful antiviral to treat the virus,” he said.

“Fortunately, all of these cases we’ve referred to hospital have got better,” Prof Chen said.

Warning about monkeypox symptoms

Monkeypox symptoms include a blistering rash or pimple-like lesions on the face, mouth, hands, feet or genitalia. Other symptoms include fever, body aches, headaches, swollen lymph nodes and chills.

The symptoms usually resolve by themselves within a few weeks. The disease is usually mild, however severe illness can develop in a small percentage of people with monkeypox.

Professor Chen said in the outbreak, many patients are presenting with symptoms closely mirroring sexually transmitted infections.

“Some are presenting just like genital herpes would, with blisters and ulcers, which are very painful, clustering around their mouth, genitals or anus,” he told The Age.

“Other patients have symptoms that very closely resemble syphilis, which again can present as ulcers.”

As a result, his clinic’s staff are now testing for monkeypox in any person who showed signs of common sexually transmitted diseases, he said.

“We learnt very quickly to not only test for herpes and syphilis but also monkeypox in that same swab,” he said.

People urged to watch for symptoms and isolate

Victoria’s health department has urged anyone developing symptoms that may be consistent with monkeypox to seek medical care and isolate.

Monkeypox may be spread from person-to-person through skin-to-skin contact, contact with contaminated surfaces or items, and respiratory droplets.

“While the current outbreak has disproportionately impacted men who have sex with men, it is important to note that monkeypox can affect anyone who comes into prolonged contact with someone with monkeypox,” the health department says.

Those with monkeypox should isolate until all lesions have crusted, scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of skin has formed underneath.

Monkeypox vaccine supplies are scarce

Victoria began rolling out monkeypox vaccines in Victoria in early August.

The federal government secured 450,000 doses of the Jynneos smallpox jab. But nationwide, supplies have been scarce.

The Victorian Health Department says existing supplies has been largely rolled out through sexual health clinics in Victoria.

“The eligibility criteria and supply are however limited during August and September as we await a larger supply,” a spokesperson says.

Victoria is expected to receive thousands of new vaccine doses in October.

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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