Call for travellers to protect themselves against mpox

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People travelling overseas need to be aware of the virus and those who are at higher risk of mpox should get vaccinated prior to travel. File picture

WA Health has confirmed a returned traveller has tested positive to mpox (formerly known as monkeypox), an infection caused by the monkeypox virus.

Communicable Disease Control Directorate’s senior medical advisor Jelena Maticevic, said while there was low risk to the public from the returned traveller, people should be aware of the risk of mpox if travelling overseas given the growing number of cases being reported.

Globally, there has been a 25 per cent increase in reported cases in the past three weeks compared to the three weeks prior, with a significant rise in cases in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia regions.

The majority of mpox infections are spread through sex and cases have been disproportionately reported in men who have sex with men.

Dr Maticevic said people travelling overseas needed to be aware of the ongoing risk of mpox and to take measures to protect themselves against mpox and other sexually transmitted infections.

“Mpox does not spread easily among people and requires close contact with an infected person, or materials contaminated with the virus,’’ she said.

“People travelling overseas should practise safe sex by using condoms, and those at higher risk of mpox – particularly men who have sex with men – should get vaccinated against mpox prior to travel.”

Festivals, clubs and parties have previously been associated with mpox transmission due to the nature of close and skin-to-skin contact at these events.

“The infection usually causes a mild illness, and most people recover within a few weeks, however severe illness can develop in a small percentage of people,” she said.

“The initial symptoms of the illness include fever, swollen lymph nodes, muscle and joint aches and fatigue.

“A rash may then develop which often starts as flat red lesions that become filled with fluid, and eventually scab over and fall off over a two-to-three-week period.

“People with symptoms of mpox should wear a mask and see their doctor to get tested.

“Those with mpox should isolate and avoid contact with other people while they are infectious.”

WA Health continues to monitor mpox virus infections overseas.

Anyone with concerns that they could be infected with mpox should consult their general practitioner – via telehealth – or a sexual health clinic.

People wanting an mpox vaccine can visit  HealthyWA to find out how to access one.

For more information visit Mpox (monkeypox) (healthywa.wa.gov.au)

A World Health Organization fact sheet says mpox can spread from person to person or occasionally from animals to people.

“Following eradication of smallpox in 1980 and the end of smallpox vaccination worldwide, mpox steadily emerged in central, east and west Africa,’’ the fact sheet says.

“A global outbreak occurred in 2022–2023.

“The natural reservoir of the virus is unknown – various small mammals such as squirrels and monkeys are susceptible.’’