About two-thirds of Victoria’s monkeypox cases have been acquired locally as health officials and doctors race to determine the source of the spread.
As of September 8, 129 confirmed or probable cases of the virus have been detected in Australia after it first arrived on its shores in May.
Victoria has recorded the most infections of any state or jurisdiction so far, with more than half (67) and more than 40 of them locally acquired.
Seventeen of the state’s cases are also active, while eight people have been hospitalized as a result of the virus.
According to the Department of Health’s latest communicable disease report, all of Victoria’s monkeypox cases have been men aged 20 or older.
A large proportion of the worldwide outbreak consists of men having sex with men, although the Victorian Department of Health said it was important to note that “monkeypox can affect anyone who comes into prolonged contact with a person with monkeypox”.
Australia declared monkeypox an infectious disease of national concern in late July.
Its trademark symptoms are vesicular rash or pimple-like lesions on the face, mouth, hands, feet or genitals.
Other symptoms include fever, body aches, headache, swollen lymph nodes and chills.
Monkeypox generally lasts only two to four weeks, but can lead to a number of medical complications in severe cases, with the virus having a fatality rate of around three to six percent.
The virus can be spread through contact with an infected animal (rodents and non-human primates) or humans.
It is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials.
Monkeypox typically takes seven to 14 days for symptoms to develop, although the incubation period can vary from one day to three weeks.
A monkeypox diagnosis is confirmed by polymerase chain reaction testing.
The infected should isolate themselves until all lesions have crusted over, scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed underneath.
Anyone suspected of having monkeypox should be tested and isolated while awaiting the results.
The roll-out of the monkeypox vaccine began in Victoria in early August after the Australian government secured nearly half a million doses of Jynneo’s smallpox vaccine.
Jynneos is the vaccine of choice in Australia against monkeypox, but there is limited supply, high demand and it is only made by one manufacturer.
The vaccine is offered free of charge throughout the state, but only specific priority groups are eligible due to its scarcity.
These priority groups are:
- high-risk close contact of monkeypox cases
- laboratory workers analyzing samples from monkeypox
- sexually active HIV-positive gay, bisexual and other men, transgender or non-binary people assigned male at birth who have sex with men
- sexually active HIV-negative gay, bisexual and other men, transgender or non-binary people assigned male at birth who have sex with men
- sexually active gay, bisexual and other men, transgender or non-binary people assigned male at birth, who have sex with men (including cis and trans men), who are homeless or have significant substance use or psychiatric illness)
- sex workers who have sex with the sexually active groups listed above
Victoria is expected to receive more vaccines in October and additional doses in early 2023.