Australia could become the latest country to report a case of monkeypox, joining a growing list of countries affected by the rare tropical disease.
NSW Health said on Friday it detected a possible case of monkeypox in a man in his 40s who recently returned from Europe.
The man developed mild illness several days after returning from Europe, with his treating physician assessing his symptoms to be similar to the illness.
Confirmatory tests are underway, with the man and a family contact isolating themselves at home, NSW Health said.
Victorians are also being warned of the disease, with state health authorities saying clinicians should consider testing returned travelers with symptoms for monkeypox.
If the NSW case is confirmed, Australia will join Italy, Sweden, the UK, Spain, Portugal and the US as countries already dealing with outbreaks.
Monkeypox occurs mainly in central and western Africa, often near tropical rainforests, and is considered endemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it was first discovered in humans in 1970.
The disease can be transmitted from person to person through air droplets, close bodily contact, or sharing contaminated laundry or objects.
Four countries in Africa – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria – reported cases of monkeypox in 2022.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said monkeypox is a rare virus that does not spread easily between people.
“The infection is usually a mild illness and most people recover within a few weeks,” she said.
The general public and health clinics should be aware of and have unusual rashes examined by specialist staff, the World Health Organization said.
The WHO has also called for vigorous contact tracing around the surge of cases.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said state health authorities are closely monitoring the developing situation.
“The advice I have is that this is a much less contagious condition than obviously COVID and things of that nature,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Perth.
“We should take this seriously (but) at the same time I would say no one should be alarmed at this point. We have the best health authorities in the world.”
Australian Associated Press