Monkeypox (MPXV)

Most recent changes:

  • Expanded vaccination eligibility criteria
  • Updated vaccination clinic details

What is monkeypox (MPXV)?

Monkeypox is a viral infection that does not spread easily between people.

What you need to know in the ACT

Since May 2022, there has been a global increase in monkeypox cases reported from multiple countries where monkeypox is not usually seen.

Confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported in Australia, including the ACT. ACT Health has issued a clinician alert to GPs and hospitals to provide advice on referral and diagnosis.

How monkeypox spreads

Monkeypox mainly spreads from one person to another by direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has symptoms, such as during sexual activity.

Less commonly, it may be spread by direct contact with contaminated objects such as bedding, towels or clothes. It can also be spread by breathing in droplets from a person with monkeypox during prolonged face-to-face contact, but this is rare.

Monkeypox may be passed on during sex. It is not known how long the virus remains present in semen and other genital fluids.

People with monkeypox are contagious from the time they first get symptoms until all the lesions have crusted, scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of skin has formed underneath, as determined by the person’s treating clinician.

While contagious, people with monkeypox should stay at home and avoid physical or intimate contact with others including sexual activity.

People who have had the monkeypox virus should use barrier methods of protection (such as condoms and dams) when engaging in sexual activity for 12 weeks after recovery.

Who is at risk?

People are at highest risk following skin-to-skin contact with someone who has monkeypox and has a rash or sores. This can happen when you are having sex.

Based on current experience in Australia and internationally, people at highest risk from monkeypox are gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) who have close and intimate contact with multiple partners.

Events held in enclosed spaces such as sex parties, saunas and sex-on-premises venues, where there is intimate physical contact with others, carry a higher risk of monkeypox transmission.

Anyone taking part in these types of activities can be exposed to monkeypox – the risk of exposure to monkeypox is associated with behaviours involving close physical contact, not with an individual’s gender or sexuality.

Although most cases in Australia have been in people infected while overseas, some people have been infected in Australia.

Symptoms

Symptoms usually begin 7-14 days after exposure, but this can be as short as a few days or as long as 21 days.

Symptoms can include:

  • rashes, pimple-like lesions or sores, particularly in areas that are hard to see such as the genitals, anus or buttocks, and on the face, arms and legs
  • ulcers, lesions or sores in the mouth

People can experience fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint aches, backache and swollen lymph nodes before the rash or lesions develop.

The lesions change and go through different stages, like chickenpox. They start as a flat red rash, develop into pustules, before forming a crust and becoming a scab.

Some people can experience only a few lesions.

Diagnosis

Anyone who develops symptoms, should stay at home and phone their GP clinic to organise a telehealth appointment in the first instance, or they can phone the Canberra Sexual Health Clinic on (02) 5124 2184.

Monkeypox infection can be confirmed by testing the blister fluid or scabs from the skin rash. This test needs to be collected by a health professional.

If you need to attend an in-person appointment as part of a diagnosis, you should wear a mask and cover any lesions with clothing or a dressing (for example a Band-Aid).

Treatment

The illness is usually mild and most people recover within 2-4 weeks.

Severe illness can occur, particularly in people who are immunocompromised. A few people may need support in hospital to manage dehydration or pain.

For people with severe illness, antiviral medications are available. Speak with your healthcare provider for more information about antiviral medication.

Prevention

Vaccination is only one way to prevent monkeypox infection.

Even if vaccinated, it’s still important to take steps to reduce your risk of exposure or spreading monkeypox as there is still a risk of infection following vaccination.

Ways to prevent catching or spreading monkeypox include:

  • Avoid close physical contact with people who have monkeypox including contact with any bedding or towels they may have been in contact with.
  • Exchange contact information with your sexual partners to assist with contact tracing if needed.
  • GBMSM who are returning from countries known to have monkeypox outbreaks, such as Europe and North America should monitor for symptoms, particularly those who have attended dance parties, sex parties, saunas, or sex on premises venues.
  • Check yourself for symptoms before you leave home. If you feel unwell or sick, or have any rashes or sores, do not attend events or venues.
  • If you are advised that you are a contact of someone with monkeypox and have questions, contact ACT Health Communicable Disease Control (CDC) on (02) 5124 9213.

Who should be vaccinated?

Eligibility criteria to receive the JYNNEOS® monkeypox vaccine have been expanded in the ACT.

People currently eligible to receive the vaccine are:

  • Gay, and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (cis and trans) with multiple or casual sexual partners, and
  • Anyone who has sex with these men, including women (cis and trans) and non-binary and gender diverse people.

Vaccinations are available at Canberra Sexual Health Centre, Hobart Place General Practice and the Interchange Health Co-operative. Further details about vaccine clinics and making a booking can be found under Monkeypox vaccination clinics.

The vaccine can also be used as post-exposure prevention for people who have had a known high-risk exposure. ACT Health will advise on the need for post-exposure vaccination if you have been identified as a contact of someone with monkeypox infection.

Information about the monkeypox vaccine (JYNNEOS)®

To be fully vaccinated, two doses of the vaccine are needed at least 28 days apart.

You will have the strongest protection from two weeks after the second vaccine, but there is some protection from having one dose of the vaccine. There is ongoing research about the vaccine - results from available clinical trials indicate that the vaccine is safe and is expected to provide good protection against monkeypox.

After you have been vaccinated against monkeypox, you may still be at risk of infection. You should continue to check for symptoms and take steps to protect yourself. More information about what you can do to reduce your risk and stop the spread of monkeypox is available at prevention and from Meridian ACT.

More information about the JYNNEOS® vaccine is available on the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website.

Monkeypox vaccination clinics

If the eligibility criteria apply to you, you can book your vaccination at one of the clinics listed below. You do not require a referral from your GP. Vaccination is provided free of charge for all eligible people. Canberra Sexual Health Centre and Interchange Health Co-operative will accept bookings for those not enrolled in Medicare.

We encourage you to book your appointment as soon as possible if you meet the eligibility criteria to reduce your risk of monkeypox.

Clinics may have limited appointments and be responding to a high volume of calls. Your patience and courtesy while contacting them is greatly appreciated.

Please discuss with your GP if you have concerns about monkeypox, the vaccine or questions about your eligibility.

Vaccination clinic

Contact details

Canberra Sexual Health Centre (CSHC)

Building 8 Level 4, Canberra Hospital, Garran ACT 2605

Bookings can be made by phone between:

  • 9am - 4:30pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and
  • 12:30 – 4:30pm on Wednesday

Phone: 02 5124 2184

Interchange Health Co-operative

Suite 5, level 1, 210-230 Anketell St (Southpoint Shopping Centre), Greenway ACT 2900

Bookings can be made by phone and online:

Phone: 02 6247 5742

Online Booking: https://www.ihco.net.au/book-online

Hobart Place General Practice

Level 2 & 3, 28 University Ave, Canberra ACT 2601

Booking can be made by phone and online:

Phone: 02 6247 4342

Online Booking: https://www.hobartplacegp.com.au/book-online

Please note that this clinic is available to Medicare card holders only.

Additional vaccination clinics may become available in the future. Monitor this webpage for the latest information on where to access the monkeypox vaccine in the ACT.

For health professionals and community service providers

See Monkeypox information for health professionals and community service providers for more information.

More information

Page last updated on: 18 Nov 2022