Following several reported cases across European countries, the NSW and Victorian state governments have issued out statements confirming the presence of the rare Monkeypox disease in Australia (one in Melbourne and another in Sydney as of May 20, 2022).

While Australia's health authorities have stated that the cases are not a cause for panic, it's important to stay vigilant, especially if you've just returned from overseas. Don't worry, Sonder is here to help you understand what the disease is, what to look out for, and how to stay safe.


What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, which is very similar to the virus that causes smallpox (Variola virus).

Where is it found?

This disease is endemic in Central and West Africa, and is sometimes exported to other regions. It is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting from two to four weeks, and are usually identified in returned travellers who have visited endemic areas.

What are the symptoms?

The incubation period of monkeypox can range from five to 21 days. Symptoms can be divided into two periods. The first symptoms of monkeypox are usually:

  • Fevers

  • Chills

  • Muscle aches

  • Backache

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Chills

  • Exhaustion.

After one to three days of the appearance of fever, the disease's characteristic rash develops on the body, usually beginning in the mouth and face before spreading. The distinctive monkeypox rash involves vesicles or pustules that are deep-seated, firm, and have clear boundaries. The rash changes and goes through different stages similar to chickenpox before finally becoming a scab that falls off.

The rash may appear on the:

  • Face (in 95% of cases)

  • Palms of the hands and soles of the feet (in 75% of cases)

  • Inside of the mouth (in 70% of cases)

  • Genitalia (30%)

  • Eyes (20%).

How do people get it?

Monkeypox generally doesn't spread easily between people, but the virus can enter the body through broken skin (even if it's not visible), the respiratory tract or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth) through respiratory droplets.

Person-to-person transmission is possible through situations including:

  • Sexual or intimate contact with an infected person.

  • Contact with clothing or linen used by an infected person.

  • Direct contact with monkeypox skin lesions or scabs.

  • Respiratory transmission from an infected person.

Is there treatment?

Monkeypox usually mild and will resolve itself within a few weeks, though there's a chance for severe symptoms develop. If you develop symptoms, make sure you isolate and seek medical attention, ensuring that you wear a face mask while covering up any lesions or blisters.

Vaccination with the smallpox vaccine and antivirals can be used to control outbreaks and may be given pre or post exposure to the disease.

How do I protect myself?

It's important to stay vigilant with hygiene measures, which includes regularly washing hands thoroughly with soap and water, and using alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

For those travelling to endemic countries, contact with sick animals that could harbour the monkeypox virus (rodents, marsupials, and primates) should be avoided, and avoid eating or handling wild game.

Upon returning from overseas, monitor for symptoms, especially if you may have had contact with a confirmed monkeypox case. If you develop symptoms, make sure you isolate and seek medical attention, ensuring that you wear a face mask while covering up any lesions or blisters.

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Information sourced from: Australian Department of Health, Better Health, and The Conversation.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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