Professor Paul Kelly, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, has declared monkeypox (MPX) a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance.

The declaration follows the World Health Organization (WHO), which recently declared the global situation regarding monkeypox to be a public health emergency of international concern.

This year, there have been over 20,00 cases in 71 countries (including Australia) that have not historically reported MPX.

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

“It is important to note that although I have declared MPX to be a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance, it is far less harmful than COVID-19 and there have been no deaths reported during the current outbreak outside of countries where the virus is endemic,” Dr Kelly said in a statement this week. 

Monkeypox is also not transmitted in the same way as COVID-19 – and is far less transmissible.

MPX’s 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.

Most cases of MPX in Australia have been among people aged 21 to 40 years. The experience internationally and in Australia to date is most cases have been among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

Although monkeypox is not usually considered a sexually transmissible infection, physical contact with an infected person during sexual intercourse carries a significant risk of transmission and intimate physical contact such as hugging, kissing and sexual activities represent a risk of infection, with infectious skin sores being the likely mode of transmission.

The government says the National Incident Centre has been activated to provide enhanced national coordination to assist states and territories to effectively manage the outbreaks within their jurisdictions.

The National Medical Stockpile has stock of MPX treatments, such as antivirals, for states and territories to access on request.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has updated clinical guidance on vaccination against monkeypox using the ACAM2000 vaccine to include the use of MVA-BN vaccine to prepare for supplies of the third-generation vaccine being made available in Australia.

More details are accessible here.