Health conditions

Monkeypox

  • Monkeypox is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus.
  • Monkeypox is most often spread through close skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the infection, for example during sex. It can also be spread in other ways, such as through prolonged face-to-face contact via respiratory droplets.
  • There is currently a multi-country outbreak of monkeypox.
  • Most cases in Australia have acquired monkeypox overseas, however some infections have been acquired in Australia.
  • If you develop symptoms you are urged to seek medical care, wear a mask and call ahead to make sure you can be isolated away from others.

WA Health is monitoring monkeypox and will continue to update this website.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox belongs to the same family as the smallpox virus but generally causes a milder illness.

Most people who have monkeypox infection recover within 2­–4 weeks.

Severe illness can develop in a small percentage of people.

Since May 2022, there has been a global increase in monkeypox cases reported in multiple countries where it is not usually seen, including Australia.

Who does it affect?

Monkeypox can affect anyone who comes into close contact with someone with the virus.

Many of the cases in the current outbreak are in men who have sex with men.

Most cases in Australia have been acquired overseas, however some have acquired their infection locally, usually from a recently returned traveller.

Countries with high numbers of monkeypox include the United Kingdom, United States of America and Europe.

Symptoms of monkeypox

Symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus.

Sores, rash, bumps or pimples (can be very painful) are commonly reported on the following areas of the body, but can present anywhere:

  • genitals
  • anus or inside rectum
  • inside the mouth
  • face
  • palms of the hands
  • soles of the feet.

The sores are flat and then become raised. Then they fill with fluid and eventually scab and fall off over a period of 2–3 weeks.

General viral symptoms may be experienced initially such as:

  • fevers
  • chills
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • exhaustion
  • headache.

Symptoms may resemble sexually transmissible infections (STIs) such as herpes or syphilis as well as other infections with a rash such as measles, or chickenpox.

How does monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox mainly spreads from person to person by:

  • direct skin-to-skin contact with someone with monkeypox rash, sores or scabs
  • this kind of contact is often during oral, anal or vaginal sex.

It can also be spread by:

  • contact with clothing or fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels) that have been used by someone with monkeypox
  • through respiratory droplets or oral fluids from a person with monkeypox
  • with an infected animal (such as rodents).

It is not known how long monkeypox virus remains in semen and other sexual fluids. People who have recovered from monkeypox should use condoms when having oral, anal or vaginal sex for 8 weeks after recovery.

Monkeypox can be spread from the time symptoms start up until the sores have healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This can take several weeks.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who has been in close contact with a person with monkeypox is at risk.

People at highest risk are those who had skin-to-skin or sexual contact with people who have monkeypox, such as at large parties or sex-on-premises venues.

Gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men may be at increased risk, with a large proportion of cases detected overseas occurring among this group.

Young children, pregnant women and immunosuppressed people may be at higher risk of severe disease with monkeypox.

Treatment

Most people with monkeypox will recover without any specific treatments.

The illness is usually mild, and recovery takes a few weeks. However, in some people the sores can be very painful.

Simple pain medications and keeping up with oral fluids help to manage symptoms.

Antiviral medications may be used for people with severe disease.

Prevention

To prevent getting monkeypox:

  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with people with suspected or confirmed monkeypox.
  • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Maintain physical distance and avoid skin-to-skin contact when attending events attended by people likely to be at increased risk of having monkeypox.
Isolation at home

If your test is positive for monkeypox, you will be contacted by public health, who will provide advice about when you can leave isolation

People suspected or confirmed to have monkeypox should:

  • Isolate at home.
  • Sleep in a separate room away from people or pets (including rodents) you live with when possible if you have rash or symptoms, and limit contact with household members. The rash is considered resolved after all scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of skin has formed underneath. This usually takes 2–3 weeks.
  • Avoid intimate contact with others including sexual activity.
  • Clean your hands frequently using alcohol-based hand sanitiser or soap and water. This should be done after touching rash/sores/scabs, clothing, linens, or household surfaces that may have had contact with rash/sores/scabs.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing with disposable tissues. Dispose of used tissues into a rubbish bag and clean your hands.
  • Cover skin lesions to the best extent possible (e.g., non-stick dressings, long sleeves, long pants) to minimise risk of contact with others.
  • Regularly clean your home. Use a household disinfectant. Pay careful attention to toilets and frequently touched surfaces. Clean and disinfect in the following order: laundry, hard surfaces, dishes, furniture, and carpet (to minimise cross contamination).
  • Use a separate toilet/bathroom. Where there is not a separate bathroom, clean and disinfect the bathroom facilities after you use them before anyone else in your household enters the room.
  • Do not share toothbrushes, razors, towels, wash cloths or other personal items with others.
  • Used dishes and eating utensils should be washed in a dishwasher or by hand with hot water and soap and dried.
  • Handle your own linen, towels and clothing for laundering:
  • Do not store, wash or tumble dry your linen and laundry with other household members’ laundry.
  • Wash items with laundry detergent at the highest temperature stated on label. Avoid using an ‘eco’ or ‘quick wash’ cycle.
  • Dry clothes as per normal.
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces e.g. washing machine including the lid or handle, after you have finished and clean your hands.
  • Place coversheets, waterproof mattress covers or blankets over upholstered furniture and other porous materials that cannot be laundered.
  • Dispose of waste at the point of use (e.g. bag waste in room, tie off bagged waste and dispose directly into the bin. Do not use recycle bins. Clean hands after disposing of waste.

For 8 weeks following isolation, you should wear a condom during sexual activity.

Vaccination

Vaccines against smallpox can be used to help prevent monkeypox infection.

Globally, vaccines for monkeypox are in limited supply. Western Australia is working with the Commonwealth Government to secure limited supplies of vaccines for the prevention of monkeypox. Vaccines, when available, will be prioritised to those at highest risk of contracting monkeypox, which will initially be those who have confirmed high-risk exposure to someone with monkeypox. As more vaccines become available, they will be offered to other priority groups. Widespread vaccination is not currently recommended due to the low risk of infection for the general population. Further updates will be provided as soon as information is available.

Where to get help

If you have monkeypox symptoms and have recently travelled overseas to an area with monkeypox:

  • call your GP for a telehealth appointment, or
  • seek care at their nearest hospital.

If going to a GP or hospital it is important to call ahead and wear a mask.

Sexual health hotline

Metro 9227 6178
Country 1800 198 205

Sexual health clinic appointments

Sexual Health Quarters (SHQ)
70 Roe Street, Northbridge, WA 6003
(08) 9227 6178

M Clinic (for men only)
2 Clive Street, West Perth, WA, 6005
(08) 9227 0734

Sexual Health Clinic, Royal Perth Hospital
Ainslie House, Level 4, H Block, Victoria Square, PERTH, WA, 6000
(08) 9224 2178

South Terrace Sexual Health Clinic
A Block, South Terrace side of Fremantle Hospital
(08) 9431 3145 or (08) 9431 2149


Last reviewed: 01-08-2022
Acknowledgements

Public Health

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