Acting CMO says government is closely monitoring monkeypox cases

By Anna Macdonald

May 24, 2022

Australian acting chief medical officer Sonya Bennett.
Australian acting chief medical officer Sonya Bennett. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

Australia’s acting chief medical officer, Sonya Bennett, has issued a warning over monkeypox, which was recently detected in both New South Wales and Victoria from returned overseas travellers.

In a statement, the federal government said it was closely monitoring the situation, stating transmission amongst the community can be low, given monkeypox requires ‘significant close contact’ with an infected person. 

“It is important to note that significant close contact with an infected person who is displaying symptoms is usually required for transmission. This means that, with good community awareness, transmission is likely to be localised, readily identified and able to be contained,” the acting CMO said.

The most common form of transmission is from animal to human, such as via rodents and primates. Human-to-human transmission is possible through ‘close contact with lesions on the skin and via body fluids that include respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as bedding.

A cross-government approach is underway, with Bennett stating the Victorian Department of Health and New South Wales Health were in the midst of contact tracing. 

“Cases are occasionally reported in non-endemic countries in returning travellers or their close contacts, or in owners of imported pets. People can contract monkeypox through very close contact with people who are infected with the virus,” NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said. 

The Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) have met already, continuing to do so as the situation develops. 

The acting CMO said travellers returning from non-endemic countries where monkeypox has had cases, including the UK, Spain, Portugal, France, the Canary Islands, the US and Canada, should monitor for symptoms and seek medical help if they think they may have contracted the disease. 

Symptoms of monkeypox are flu-like, in the form of muscle aches, fevers, fluid or pus in lesions, and rashes.

Bennett noted that although the disease may be transmitted through sexual intercourse, monkeypox is not a sexually-transmitted disease. 


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