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Experts warn of “highly unusual outbreak” of monkeypox in Australia

US begins clinical trial to test monkeypox vaccine

As Australia records its second case of monkeypox, local authorities and experts are bracing for a “highly unusual outbreak” of the disease, which has been spreading across the globe in recent weeks.

According to Xinhua, the virus was first detected in the state of New South Wales (NSW) last week, and a second case was later confirmed in Victoria’s state capital Melbourne.

The World Health Organization (WHO) met over the weekend to discuss Europe’s worst monkeypox outbreak in history.

Professor Raina MacIntyre, Head of the Biosecurity Program at the University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) Kirby Institute, who has played a major role in the nation’s fight against Covid-19, has hit the ground running to inform the public and has called on the government to prepare for a potential outbreak.

She reiterated in an article published on UNSW’s website on Monday that the initial cases were not “cause for panic,” but rather a reminder for people returning from overseas to “remain vigilant.”

While the variant of monkeypox appears to have a similar fatality rate of around 1% to Covid-19, she claims it is nowhere near as contagious.

“It is a respiratory virus and can also spread to humans without contact, probably through aerosols,” said MacIntyre. “However, it does not usually spread easily between humans, and typically only in close contacts. Studies have found about 3 per cent of contacts of a monkeypox case will be infected.”

Individuals may experience symptoms such as fever, headache, swelling of the lymph nodes, and muscle aches several weeks after being infected, which is followed several days later by the highly visible pustule rash.

The monkeypox virus was discovered in humans in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1970, but scientists are baffled as to why it is now spreading outside of Africa.

MacIntyre believes that waning immunity from smallpox vaccination, which is derived from the same virus that causes monkeypox and was widely used before it was eradicated in the 1970s, is a major factor.

According to a 2018 report published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, only 10% of Australia’s population was immunized against smallpox.

MacIntyre advocated for contact tracing, close contact quarantine, and “ring vaccination,” in which confirmed cases’ contacts are vaccinated rather than the entire population, citing the fact that Australia is unlikely to have a large supply of second and third generation smallpox vaccines.

“Given the unusual nature of this epidemic, it would be wise to ensure we have a stockpile of antivirals and enough of both types of vaccines.

About the author

Brendan Byrne

While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala.

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