Monkeypox virus: Australian authorities on alert amid outbreak in UK, US, Europe

Australian experts say the spread of monkeypox virus in the US, UK and Europe “at the same time” is a “big problem” and that the disease is “not pleasant”.Australian health authorities are concerned that the rare but potentially serious monkeypox virus could reach Australia as cases are detected in the UK, the US, Canada and Europe.There are currently no cases of the virus in Australia but health authorities in Canada’s Quebec province are investigating after more than a dozen suspected cases emerged.The United States on Wednesday also confirmed a case of monkeypox in a man who had recently traveled to Canada, after European health officials confirmed dozens of cases earlier this week.An Australian department of health spokesperson said the international situation is being monitored but there are no cases in Australia to date.Epidemiologist from the University of South Australia, Adrian Esterman, told the situation “is serious”.“The big problem is that it has appeared in London, Lisbon and Madrid at roughly the same time, and they cannot work out how the cases are linked,” he said.“The current variant appears to be the milder of the two types, but nonetheless it is not a pleasant disease.“In most cases, the disease is self-limiting, and people recover in 2-3 weeks.”He said there is a “good chance” that airborne transmission may be in play and that it is “even more reason to mask up”.Infectious diseases expert from UNSW, Raina MacIntyre, said the rise in global cases is “a concern worldwide (because) vaccine immunity has waned to almost 0 AND we live with far higher levels of medical immunosuppression today than in 1980” when mass vaccination stopped.The illness often starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle ache and swollen lymph nodes before causing a chicken pox-like rash on the face and body, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Harvard Medical School’s assistant professor of medicine, Dr John Ross, published a lengthy thread on the situation on social media where he outlined how the virus spreads and what signs and symptoms to look out for.He said it “may be a good idea to start vaccinating (healthcare workers)” and that even though “prior outbreaks have fizzled quickly … the appearance of many cases in many different countries, and the very long incubation period, suggests this may NOT be the case this time”.Public health authorities in the Quebec city of Montreal are investigating at least 13 cases, the public broadcaster reported, adding they were flagged after diagnoses were made in several clinics specializing in sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.Confirmation is expected in the coming days, the CBC said.In the neighboring United States, Massachusetts health authorities and the CDC confirmed the country’s first case this year on Wednesday.“The case poses no risk to the public, and the individual is hospitalized and in good condition,” the Massachusetts Department of Health said in a statement.The disease can spread by contact with the bodily fluids or sores of an infected person or “shared items (such as clothing and bedding) that have been contaminated,” according to the CDC, adding that household disinfectants can kill the virus.Many of the reported cases, including clusters detected over the past two weeks in Portugal, Spain and Britain — where monkeypox is uncommon — “are occurring within sexual networks”, said Inger Damon, a poxvirus expert with the CDC, in an agency statement.Several of the European cases have been detected in men who have sex with men, though the CDC underscored that “anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can spread monkeypox”.Since May 6, nine cases of monkeypox have been detected in the United Kingdom, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said Wednesday.Spain and Portugal also announced earlier Wednesday that they had identified more than 40 suspected or confirmed cases of monkeypox.— with AFPOriginally published as Monkeypox virus detected in UK, US, Europe and Canada, but no cases in Australia