Killer virus spreads to new Australian state

A person infected with monkeypox spent four days wandering around a major Australian city before catching a flight.

Monkeypox has spread to Western Australia, with one person infected with the disease wandering around Perth for four days.

The infected person was not diagnosed in Australia, with doctors only realizing the person had the tropical virus once they landed in the UK three days later.

None of the person’s five close contacts have contracted monkeypox, health authorities have confirmed.

So far, monkeypox has only been found in New South Wales and Victoria, with five cases in the former and three in the latter.

It comes as the World Health Organization has warned of the virus posing a “real risk” and called for an emergency summit.

Jelena Maticevic, acting director of the Communicable Disease Control Directorate, said: “Monkey pox does not spread easily among people. It is transmitted by close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated by the virus.

“The infection usually causes mild illness and most people recover within a few weeks.

“The first symptoms of the disease include fever, swollen lymph nodes, muscle and joint pain and fatigue. A rash then develops which often begins as flat red lesions, which fill with fluid, and eventually crust over and fall off for a period of two to three weeks.

“People with monkeypox should self-isolate and avoid contact with other people while they are contagious.

“We ask clinicians to continue to be vigilant and watch for signs of the virus.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared an emergency meeting because the global outbreak of monkeypox poses a “real risk”.

Europe remains the epicenter of the global monkeypox epidemic, with more than 1,500 cases reported in the region.

The United Nations health body is holding an emergency meeting next week to discuss whether to classify the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern.

“Europe remains the epicenter of this growing epidemic with 25 countries reporting more than 1,500 cases, or 85% of the global total,” said Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, during a Wednesday press conference.

The WHO European Region includes 53 countries, including several in Central Asia. “The scale of this outbreak poses a real risk. The longer the virus circulates, the more it will spread its reach and the more the disease will take hold in non-endemic countries,” Kluge said.

Until recent months, monkeypox was generally confined to West and Central Africa.

Kluge said the majority of reported cases in Europe “involved men who have sex with men”, but also cautioned against stigma.

He pointed out “that the monkeypox virus is not itself attached to any specific group”.

The regional manager also warned that the risk increases as summer rolls in with “tourism, various Pride events, music festivals and other mass gatherings planned for the area”.

“These events are powerful opportunities to engage with young, sexually active, highly mobile people,” Kluge said, but stressed that “monkey pox is not a reason to cancel events, but an opportunity to exploit them to stimulate our commitment”.

Speaking alongside Kluge, Steve Taylor, director of the European Association of Pride Organisers, said some 750 Pride events were planned across the European region and welcomed the WHO’s recommendation not to not cancel these events.

“Unfortunately, but quite predictably, some of those who oppose Pride and who oppose equality and human rights have already tried to use monkey pox to justify calls Pride’s ban,” Taylor told reporters.

The EU announced on Tuesday that it had purchased nearly 110,000 doses of the vaccine to help fight the outbreak, although the WHO does not recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox.

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

No treatment exists, but symptoms usually disappear after two to four weeks. The disease is considered endemic in 11 African countries, where the mortality rate is between 3 and 6%.

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