Monkeypox has been declared an “incident of national significance” as cases climb in Australia.
The announcement was made by the country’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly on Thursday morning.
“I have declared the unfolding situation regarding monkeypox in Australia to be a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance,” Professor Kelly said in a statement.
It comes just days after the World Health Organisation declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern.
The decision to classify the disease as a ‘national significance’ means the virus will now involve national policies, intervention and public messaging.
There have been 44 cases of the disease in Australia with the majority of those infected having recently returned from travelling overseas.
According to Professor Kelly most cases have been among people aged 21 to 40 and among men.
“The experience internationally and in Australia to date is most cases have been among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men,” he said.
While monkeypox isn’t considered a sexually transmissible infection, physical contact with an infected person during sex carries a “significant risk of transmission.”
More than 20,000 cases globally
New data reveals that since the start of the year more than 20,311 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 71 countries, including Australia, that have not historically reported any cases.
While monkeypox rashes can vary from person to person, they often appear like pimples, blisters or sores.
Typically the rash starts on the face before moving to other parts of the body including the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
In this outbreak, however, rashes have also been seen on the genital and perianal regions of affected people.
While most cases are relatively mild and can resolve themselves within two to four weeks without specific treatments, the National Medical Stockpile has made treatments, such as antivirals, available for all states and territories.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has also updated its clinical guidance on vaccination against monkeypox to include the use of a second vaccine ahead of its arrival in Australia.
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