Urgent warning to two Australian states as new cases of a highly infectious disease are detected

Health officials have issued an urgent warning after a highly contagious disease was discovered in two states.

NSW Health confirmed three new locally acquired cases of mpox, previously known as monkeypox, were detected in the state this week.

There were 69 MPOX cases between May 2022 and January 2024, NSW Health said in a statement, but the three new cases are the first since January.

The new cases were confirmed this week and are linked to the current interstate MPox outbreaks, bringing the total number of MPox cases identified in NSW to 72.

NSW Health is calling on ‘gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men to be on the lookout for symptoms of MPOX following the recent detection of new cases’.

NSW Health confirmed three new locally acquired cases of mpox, formerly known as monkeypox, were discovered in the state this week (pictured is a person with a monkeypox rash)

Executive Director of Health Protection, Dr. Jeremy McAnulty, urged men who have sex with men to be alert to symptoms.

‘Consult your GP or visit a sexual health clinic if symptoms develop,’ said Dr McAnulty.

‘The Mpox vaccine is recommended for all sexually active men who have sex with men, so get vaccinated if you have not yet been vaccinated.

‘It is important to note that two doses of vaccine are required, so anyone who has only received one dose should receive a second dose at least 28 days after the first dose.’

The MPOX vaccine is free and does not require a Medicare card to get it.

Three men, one in their 20s, one in their 30s and one in their 50s, have been diagnosed with the virus, with officials assuring the risk to the general public is low.

This is because transmission usually requires prolonged, close or intimate contact.

There were no cases in South Africa last year and only two in 2022, when the global outbreak occurred.

In 2024, there were 67 cases of MPOX in the country, 45 of which were in Victoria.

Mpox’s name was changed due to claims that it was stigmatizing and racist.

Mpox is a viral infection that causes a skin rash, with symptoms including fever, chills, exhaustion, headache, muscle and back pain and swollen lymph nodes.

Mpox is spread through contact with bodily fluids.

Mpox is spread through contact with bodily fluids.

Symptoms can occur up to 21 days after exposure and are transmitted through prolonged or close skin-to-skin contact, such as during sexual contact, contaminated objects or surfaces.

MPOX vaccination is available, with free vaccines offered to eligible groups and to all sexually active homosexuals, bisexuals or men who have sex with men.

Deputy Director of the Department of Communicable Disease Control Dr. Louise Flood encourages everyone who is eligible to get their vaccine.

‘The risk to the public is low. Mpox is not easily transmitted from person to person without prolonged close or intimate contact,” she said.

‘If you think you have MPox, seek medical advice and get tested.’

What is Mpox?

Mpox is a zoonosis, a virus or disease that is transmitted to humans from animals. This usually occurs in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa through contact with animals such as rodents or by eating wild game.

There is currently no evidence of spread from animals to humans in Australia.

This disease is mainly spread through direct contact with infected body fluids, lesions, or scabs on the skin. It is also spread through contact with respiratory droplets, such as sneezing, coughing, speaking or breathing.

In the 2022 outbreak, a large proportion of cases affected men who were sexually active with other men.

Most cases of MPOX are mild and can be left without medical treatment, while mild cases only require paracetamol for pain and to stay hydrated.

Individuals with compromised immune systems are at greater risk for severe cases of MPOX.