Chief medical officer Paul Kelly’s big monkeypox declaration

Australia’s top doctor has declared that Monkeypox is now a communicable disease incident of national significance.

Chief medical officer Paul Kelly made the announcement on Thursday morning.

He said this followed the World Health Organisation declaring the global situation regarding monkeypox to be a public health emergency of international concern.

In Australia, there have been 44 cases – the majority of which have been within returned international travellers.

Professor Kelly’s announcement means the federal government can enact an emergency response to the outbreak.

Monkeypox is a viral infection which causes a rash and is spread by very close contact with someone with monkeypox.

Professor Kelly said the virus’ rash and flu-like symptoms are relatively mild, and in most cases resolve themselves within two to four weeks without the need for specific treatments.

He said the virus was “far less harmful than Covid-19”.

“There have been no deaths reported during the current outbreak outside of countries where the virus is endemic,” he said.

“Monkeypox is also not transmitted in the same way as Covid-19 and is far less transmissible.”

Between January 1 and July 28 this year there have been 20,311 monkeypox cases in 71 countries – including Australia – which have not historically reported the disease, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Professor Kelly said Australia’s national medical stockpile has supplies of monkeypox treatments, such as antivirals, for states and territories to access on request.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has updated its clinical guidance on who should consider being vaccinated against the virus.

This includes anyone deemed a high risk contact, as well as men who have sex with men and have a high number of sexual contacts.

ATAGI says two vaccines are available in Australia for the prevention of monkeypox.

These are the ACAM2000 smallpox vaccine, which is readily available, and the newer JYNNEOS vaccine.

The Commonwealth and some states and territories have secured limited supplies of JYNNEOS, ATAGI said.

Originally published as Chief medical officer Paul Kelly’s big Monkeypox declaration