Victoria’s department of health on Saturday issued a health alert over an emerging monkeypox outbreak in Melbourne and increase in cases of local transmission. As of August 18, Victoria reported around 40 monkeypox cases, with many due to local transmission.
Though monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, the current outbreak has been predominantly among gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men. Health authorities now want to urgently reach out to those at risk to make them aware of the outbreak so that they can take preventive measures, while the state waits for more vaccine supplies.
“Transmission is skin-to-skin but we owe it to gay and bisexual men to inform them where the risk is now and to support reducing risk. Vaccines are currently in short supply but many more doses on the way,” Victorian Chief Health Officer, Prof Brett Sutton posted on Twitter.
Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth told The Age that public health officials were “concerned”. Ruth said vaccines should be released from the national stockpile and “hitting Melbourne hard to prevent it spreading around the country.”
Local Transmission In Victoria
As of August 18, Australia recorded 89 cases of monkeypox, including 40 in Victoria, 39 in New South Wales, 3 in Queensland, 3 in Western Australia, 2 in the Australian Capital Territory, and 2 in South Australia.
According to Victoria’s Department of Health, while a majority of cases were among returned travellers who have acquired the infection overseas, a growing number of cases in Victoria have been traced to local transmission.
“The number of people diagnosed with monkeypox in Victoria is increasing due to local transmission,” said Associate Professor Deborah Friedman, Deputy Chief Health Officer Communicable Disease in an health alert issued on Saturday morning. “Preventive measures including limiting sexual partners are very important for people who are not vaccinated.”
Earlier this month, Australia announced that it was rolling out third generation monkeypox vaccines JYNNEOS for those at risk. Vaccinations have been prioritised for gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men who are at high risk of exposure.
In Victoria, vaccinations are available at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Thorne Harbour Health, Northside Clinic, Collins Street Medical Centre, Prahran Market Clinic and at regional health centres.
However, the department of health admitted that there were limited supplies of the vaccine in August and September, with more vaccine doses expected to arrive later this year and next year.
“More clinics and access points will be able to provide the vaccine as additional stock becomes available,” said the DoH.
ADAM Pauses Monday Events
The community is, meanwhile, not waiting for the health authorities to get its act together and taking steps to prevent transmission.
ADAM, which describes itself as ” Melbourne’s world famous nudist pub for guys” announced last month that they were temporarily pausing their weekly Monday night events at Sircuit bar.
“ADAM and Sircuit have made the joint decision to immediately put the regular Monday ADAM event at Sircuit on hiatus due the the emerging and changing health risks of monkeypox (MPX) within our community,” ADAM announced on its Facebook page.
“While no cases have been attributed to the ADAM event, we both believe it is in the best interests of our community and indeed the wider community that this hiatus happens. ADAM will continue to monitor the situation whilst engaging with relevant health authorities and will resume when it is deemed appropriate to do so and vaccines are widely available.”
Health Officials Want Community To Pay Attention
There are somethings that health officials say the community can do to limit the spread and stop the monkeypox outbreak from getting out of hand.
People with monkeypox should isolate from others and abstain from sex while symptomatic, from the onset of symptoms and until their lesions have healed and the scabs have dried and fallen off.
As a precaution, people should use condoms with all sexual partners for eight weeks after infection.
If you are returning from outbreak hotspots such as Europe and North America and have attended sex on premises venues, dance venues, sex parties or saunas, monitor for signs or symptoms of monkeypox.
Limit your sexual partners, particularly if you are not vaccinated.
Exchange contact information with your sexual partners to assist with contact tracing if needed.
Before you head to an event or venue, check yourself for symptoms. If you feel unwell, particularly if you have any rashes or sores, do not attend.
What Is Monkeypox?
The current multi-country outbreak of monkeypox was first reported in May 2022.
“Symptoms of monkeypox can include a rash, fever, chills, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion. In the current outbreak, lesions frequently begin and affect the genital or anal areas, and may or may not be associated with swollen lymph nodes or fever,” according to the Department of Health.
“Some cases developed proctitis (presenting with rectal pain, bloody stools, diarrhea) or urethritis. The rash may involve vesicles, pustules, pimples, or ulcers, and can also involve the face, body, palms of hands and soles of the feet or inside the mouth.”
“While the current outbreak has disproportionately impacted men who have sex with men, anyone who has been in close and usually prolonged intimate contact with someone with monkeypox is at risk,” the health department added.
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