Australia has recorded its first confirmed case of monkeypox in Victoria, joining a growing list of nations affected by the rare tropical illness.
On Friday, Victoria’s Department of Health confirmed the case was recorded in a returned traveler who arrived in Melbourne from the United Kingdom earlier this week.
The man, aged in his 30s, developed mild symptoms before landing in Melbourne on May 16, where he immediately sought medical attention. Testing confirmed he had the virus.
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“He had an extremely astute GP who has thought of monkeypox and referred him for testing which has led to early diagnosis, early isolation,” Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton told reporters on Friday.
He remains in isolation at The Alfred Hospital in a stable condition with mild symptoms.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health has begun contact tracing, with the man’s close contacts being asked to monitor for symptoms and isolate only if they develop symptoms.
The virus usually starts with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headaches and muscle aches and pains before it causes a distinctive blistering rash and swollen lymph nodes.
Some of the man’s close contacts will be offered a vaccine, which can be effective up to four days after potential exposure.
As a precaution, contact tracing is also underway for passengers seated near the man onboard flight EY10 from London to Abu Dhabi on May 14 and flight EY462 from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne which landed at at 5.45am on May 16.
“Anyone who develops symptoms is being urged to seek care at their nearest hospital (while) wearing a mask and calling ahead to make sure they can be isolated away from others.”
Alfred Health infectious diseases physicist Professor Allen Cheng said, “there are always emerging infections, and on the scale of emerging infections – this is not COVID”.
“This is not anywhere near as transmissible, we do need to have a public health response and it needs to be proportionate, but beyond contact tracing and public health measures, it does not really have implications for the rest of us at this stage. ”
Possible case in NSW
NSW Health has also 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, with his GP assessing his symptoms to be similar to those of the disease.
Confirmation testing is underway and the man and a household contact are isolating at home, NSW Health said.
Australia joins Italy, Sweden, the UK, Spain, Portugal and the US as nations 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.