Australian men’s health authorities are urging gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men in NSW that have recently returned from overseas travel to watch for symptoms of MPXV, commonly known as ‘monkeypox’.
The warning follows the identification by New South Wales Health of a probable case of MPXV in Sydney of a recently returned traveller to Europe.
Cases of MPXV have been confirmed in non-endemic countries across Europe and North America. This includes the UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, the US and Canada.
A man in his 40s in Sydney developed a mild illness several days after arriving back in Sydney. He subsequently presented to his GP with symptoms clinically compatible with monkeypox.
A large proportion of cases detected overseas are among gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.
MPXV has not previously been described as an STI though it can spread in sexual networks through direct contact during sex and contact with clothing or linens used by a person who has MPXV.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said NSW Health has taken steps to ensure it identifies and appropriately managed any potential monkeypox cases.
“NSW Health has issued a clinician alert to GPs and hospitals across the state and has also been in contact with sexual health services to increase awareness of the cases identified overseas and to provide advice on diagnosis and referral. We will be speaking with GPs about this issue again today,” Dr Chant said.
Symptoms of MPXV include fever, malaise, headache, sometimes sore throat and cough, and swollen lymph nodes. Following symptoms, lesions begin in the mouth and spread to the face, arms and legs.
Person-to-person transmission is mainly through respiratory droplets or direct contact with lesion material.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill urges gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men to look out for symptoms, especially those who have recently travelled overseas in Europe and the US.
“We particularly urge those who attended dance parties, sex parties or saunas in Europe to be vigilant for compatible symptoms. Anyone with symptoms, particularly a rash, should call their GP or local sexual health clinic by phone or telehealth. You can also call NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.”
MPXV is a rare viral infection that does not spread easily between people and is usually associated with travel to Central or West Africa, where it is endemic.
There are some therapies available for the treatment of MPXV, particularly for people at high-risk such as those who are immunosuppressed. However, many cases are usually a mild self-limiting illness and most people recover within a few weeks.
With the situation rapidly evolving, Parkhill said it’s vital people remain calm and follow public health advice.
“Given what we know at the moment about MPXV overseas, it’s important that we stay informed, don’t panic and take decisions that are good for our health and our communities’ health,” Parkhill said.
“Our experience over the past two years of living through the pandemic demonstrates how effective our response can be when we are guided by evidence, keep ourselves up-to-date and always follow public health advice.”
Parkhill also urged people to be mindful of stigma when it comes to new viral outbreaks and infections and to challenge prejudice and discrimination.
“Through our experience with the HIV/AIDS crisis, our communities understand just how devastating and hurtful the impact of prejudice and stigma can be. It’s important we remember that viruses do not discriminate, and neither should we.”
Last Updated on May 20, 2022