Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

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Monkeypox outbreak

Summary
Monkeypox is a rare disease that does not easily spread between people.

Currently there is an outbreak of monkeypox beyond the African continent where it is endemic. On 23 July, the World Health Organisation declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern.

If travelling to countries where monkeypox is present:

  • Practice good hygiene including washing hands with soap and water or alcohol based sanitiser.
  • avoiding close contact with people who have suspected or confirmed monkeypox.
  • avoid contact with sick animals (especially rodents, marsupials and primates) or eating or handling wild game (bush meat).

Current situation
Monkeypox is a rare zoonotic virus (transmission occurring animal-to-human) which is endemic in parts of Central and West Africa. Outbreaks outside of the African continent occasionally occur. 

There is a current global outbreak first notified 7th May 2022. As at 26 May, there are 219 confirmed cases in over 17 counties outside of areas where monkeypox is endemic (established) and further cases are suspected. Cases have been confirmed in Europe, United States, and Australia. The World Health Organization provides up to date information (https://www.who.int/)

Monkeypox transmission
Monkeypox does not easily spread between people. 

Person-to-person spread may occur through:

  • sexual or intimate contact with an infectious person (including kissing)
  • contact with clothing or linens (such as bedding or towels) used by an infectious person
  • direct contact with monkeypox skin lesions or scabs
  • respiratory droplets from an individual with monkeypox

In endemic areas, spread of monkeypox may occur when a person comes into close contact with a wild animal (such as a rodent) infected with the virus or ingests wild game derived from an infected animal.

People with monkeypox are contagious from the time that they develop their first symptoms (which is usually fever, but occasionally starts with a rash) and until rash lesions crust, dry or fall off.

Monkeypox symptoms
The first symptoms of monkeypox are usually:

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

After a few days, the characteristic rash usually appears on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body. It may also appear on the palms of hands and soles of the feet, inside the mouth, or on the genitalia. Sometimes it may only appear in one area such as on the genitalia.

The rash associated with monkeypox involves vesicles or pustules. The number of lesions varies from a few to several thousands. The rash changes and goes through different stages, like chickenpox, before finally becoming a scab that falls off.

The symptoms usually resolve by themselves within two to four weeks.

What to do if you develop symptoms of monkeypox
If you develop monkeypox symptoms, and particularly if you develop a rash along with a fever and swollen lymph nodes you should isolate from others and seek medical care. Wear a mask and call your doctor or Healthline (if in New Zealand), or local health care provider if overseas. If you have a rash or blisters, make sure these are covered.

There are some treatment options for monkeypox that a healthcare professional will be able to discuss with you.

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