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Outbreak of rare monkeypox disease reaches Australia

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A case of monkeypox disease has been confirmed in Victoria, in a returned traveller from the United Kingdom, meaning Australia has joined a growing list of nations affected by the rare tropical illness.

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Victoria’s health department confirmed the case on Friday afternoon.

NSW Health also said on Friday it had detected a possible case of monkeypox in a man in his 40s who recently returned from Europe.

The man developed a mild illness several days after returning from Europe, with his GP assessing his symptoms to be similar to the disease.

Confirmation testing is underway, with the man and a household contact isolating at home, NSW Health said.

Australia has joined Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal and the United States as nations already dealing with outbreaks.

Monkeypox occurs mainly in central and west Africa, often close to tropical rainforests, and is considered endemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it was first discovered in humans in 1970.

The illness can be transmitted from person to person through air droplets, close bodily contact or sharing contaminated linens or objects.

Four countries in Africa – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria – have reported cases of monkeypox in 2022.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said monkeypox is a rare virus that did not spread easily between people.

“The infection is usually a mild illness and most people recover within a few weeks,” she said.

She said a large number of overseas cases were among gay and bi-sexual men, and she urged those men to “be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions” and to contact their GP or a sexual health clinic if concerned.

She said people should be “particularly vigilant” if they had returned to Australia after attending large parties or sex-on-premises venues overseas.

The general public and health clinics should be aware and have unusual skin rashes examined by specialist staff, the World Health Organisation said.

The WHO also called for vigorous contact tracing around the spate of cases.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said state health authorities were closely monitoring the developing situation.

“The advice I have is that it is a far less contagious condition than obviously Covid and things of that nature,” Morrison told reporters in Perth.

“We should be taking this seriously (but) at the same time I would say that no one should be alarmed at this point. We’ve got the best health authorities in the world.”

-AAP with DPA

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