Third Australian monkeypox case identified

Matt Woodley

2/06/2022 4:00:49 PM

The newly identified case comes days after the WHO said ‘widespread’ human-to-human transmission is already occurring.

Electron microscopic image of monkeypox.
Colourised electron microscopic image of a monkeypox virion. (Image: US CDC)

Australia’s third identified case of monkeypox is a man in his 50s, who recently returned to New South Wales having spent time in Queensland.
NSW Health said the man developed a ‘mild illness’ several days after arriving back in Sydney, before presenting to his GP and then hospital with symptoms clinically compatible with monkeypox.
The man, who lives alone, is currently being cared for in hospital after urgent testing confirmed the diagnosis.
At the time of publication, no high-risk contacts required to isolate had been identified, but several people who had other lower-level contact have been advised to monitor for symptoms.
The most recent case is not connected to either of the first reported instances, identified on 20 May, and NSW Health is reportedly working with Queensland Health to determine potential transmission incidents.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant reiterated the general community does not need to be concerned by the risk of the virus, which is a rare viral infection that does not spread easily between people.
‘NSW Health is providing further information to clinicians across the state today to assist with the identification and management of potential monkeypox cases,’ Dr Chant said.
‘We will continue to work with GPs, hospitals and sexual health services across the state to provide advice on diagnosis and referral.’
The new case comes days after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a ‘moderate’ risk to public health, given the recent outbreaks constitute the first time that monkeypox cases have been reported ‘concurrently in widely disparate WHO geographical areas’ without known epidemiological links to non-endemic countries in west or central Africa.
‘The sudden appearance and wide geographic scope of many sporadic cases indicates that widespread human-to-human transmission is already underway, and the virus may have been circulating unrecognised for several weeks or longer,’ the WHO update stated.
‘There is the potential for greater health impact with wider spread to vulnerable population groups, as deaths among cases in previous outbreaks have been reported to occur more often among children and immunocompromised individuals.’
The WHO also said there is a high likelihood of further cases with unidentified chains of transmission, and that there is a need for ‘immediate action’ from countries to stop the virus from spreading further.
To date, nearly 400 confirmed or suspected cases have been reported in 23 WHO member states that are not endemic for monkeypox virus, mainly among men who have sex with men (although cases have occurred in other populations).
Monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding. The incubation period of monkeypox is usually from 6–13 days but can range from 5–21 days.
Clinicians have been advised to be alert to patients presenting with a rash that progresses in sequential stages – macules, papules, vesicles, pustules, scabs, at the same stage of development over all affected areas of the body – that may be associated with fever, enlarged lymph nodes, headache, back pain, muscle aches or fatigue.
Any patient with suspected monkeypox should be investigated and if confirmed, isolated until their lesions have crusted, the scab has fallen off and a fresh layer of skin has formed underneath.
A monkeypox update for primary care was released last month and can be accessed on the Department of Health website.
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