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HealthInfo Canterbury

Monkeypox

Monkeypox (MPX) is a viral disease that can pass between animals and humans. This is known as a zoonotic disease. It was first identified in humans in 1970.

Previously, monkeypox was usually only found in Western Africa but there are now cases around the world, including in New Zealand.

It's a notifiable disease in New Zealand, meaning it must be reported to the local medical officer of health.

Monkeypox doesn't easily spread between people, but you can catch it from direct contact with the infectious rash or body fluids such as pus or blood, and contact with saliva from an infected person, such as during kissing.

You can also catch it from touching clothing and items that have been contaminated with the virus. Babies in the womb can catch it from their mothers.

You won't notice symptoms of monkeypox until 12 days after you catch the virus.

Symptoms of monkeypox

The first symptoms of monkeypox are usually:

A rash generally appears after a few days. It usually starts on your face then spreads to other parts of your body. It may also appear on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet, inside your mouth or on your genitals.

Monkeypox is usually a mild illness, but a small number of people become very unwell.

Getting help with monkeypox

If you think you may have been exposed to monkeypox and you develop symptoms, particularly a rash, stay away from other people and call your general practice team or nearest hospital for advice.

If a health professional wants to see you, wear a mask and cover any rash or blisters.

If you're identified as a close contact of someone with monkeypox, your local public health unit will guide you with monitoring your symptoms and checking your temperature for 21 days from your last contact with that person. See the Ministry of Health's monkeypox page for more information about what to do if you're a close contact.

Treating monkeypox

The treatment for monkeypox mainly aims to reduce the symptoms. It includes rest and paracetamol.

The illness is usually mild, and recovery usually takes a few weeks.

See the World Health Organization's page about recovering from monkeypox at home for information about looking after yourself and preventing spreading the disease to other people.

Preventing monkeypox

If you've been in contact with a person or animal with monkeypox, wash your hands really thoroughly.

Avoid close contact with people with suspected or confirmed monkeypox and don't share their clothing or bedding.

If you're travelling to a region where monkeypox is known to be present, avoid contact with animals that could have the virus.

There's no specific vaccine for monkeypox but some smallpox vaccines can protect you. The Ministry of Health is working with PHARMAC to explore options for access to smallpox vaccines that can be considered for the targeted prevention of monkeypox.

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Content shared between HealthInfo Canterbury, KidsHealth and Health Navigator NZ as part of a National Health Content Hub collaborative. Page created July 2022.

Sources

Page reference: 1032105

Review key: HIMON-1032105