Lessons for Australia’s monkeypox response

From The Saturday Paper, 20 August 2022:

When infectious diseases physician Dr Jonathan Volk learnt about monkeypox at medical school in the United States more than a decade ago, he was taught it was a mild, self-limiting illness.

In the past few months, he’s diagnosed nearly 160 cases at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco medical centre. Most have been mild, but some have not.

“Many patients have had excruciating and difficult-to-control pain, including severe rectal pain and bleeding,” Volk says.

Some have painful mouth lesions that make it difficult for them to eat, others have severe itching, and some develop secondary bacterial infections in the virally caused lesions that are characteristic of the disease. None so far have been hospitalised.

Last month, the World Health Organization said the spread of monkeypox to 75 countries and territories warranted its elevation to a public health emergency of international concern, with the aim of encouraging global co-operation to address the disease. More than 36,400 infections have now been recorded throughout the world. Australia has reported 82 cases so far, mostly in New South Wales and Victoria. WHO notes that monkeypox is not as contagious as some other infections, because it requires close contact to spread. In his announcement, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented that, so far, the outbreak was concentrated among men who have sex with men and highlighted that “stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus”. Read more.

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