Photo: AFP / Joao Luiz Bulcao / Hans Lucas
Four more cases of monkeypox have been found in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health says.
There are now a total of nine cases with the infectious disease in the country.
The latest cases were all reported in the past seven days and had all recently returned from overseas, the ministry said.
Three are isolating in the Auckland region, and one in the South Island.
Public health staff assessed the risk of transmission from the cases as low and there was no current evidence of community transmission, the ministry said.
Case updates on monkeypox will provided weekly instead of on an individual basis.
The ministry said advice had been provided to public health units, primary health organisations and sexual health clinics to help identify potential cases.
“We continue to advise anyone who will have close physical or sexual contact while overseas, or with people who’ve recently been overseas, to be mindful of MPX symptoms and the health advice.”
According to the World Health Organisation’s 21 September 2022 report, the number of Monkeypox cases reported globally peaked in mid-August and the numbers of cases in Europe and the Americas are declining.
The virus was first identified in a captive monkey and since 1970 there have been sporadic outbreaks reported across 10 African countries.
In 2003, there was an outbreak in the US, the first time it had been seen outside Africa. Patients caught the disease from close contact with prairie dogs that had been infected by small mammals imported into the country. A total of 81 cases were reported, but none resulted in deaths.
In 2017, Nigeria experienced the largest known outbreak. There were 172 suspected cases and 7 percent of victims were men between 21 and 40 years old.
Initial symptoms include fever, headaches, swellings, back pain, aching muscles.
Once the fever breaks a rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body, most commonly the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
The rash, which can be extremely itchy or painful, changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off. The lesions can cause scarring.
The infection usually clears up on its own and lasts between 14 and 21 days.
Most cases of the virus are mild, sometimes resembling chickenpox, and clear up on their own within a few weeks.
Monkeypox can sometimes be more severe. At least 12 people have died worldwide with it in the most recent outbreak.
Monkeypox can be spread when someone is in close contact with an infected person. The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose or mouth.
It has not previously been described as a sexually transmitted infection, but it can be passed on by close contact.
UK medical authorities are advising anyone with the virus to abstain from sex while they have symptoms.
While there is currently no available evidence that monkeypox can be spread in sexual fluids, people confirmed to have the virus are advised to use condoms for eight weeks after infection as a precaution.
It can also be spread by contact with infected animals such as monkeys, rats and squirrels, or by virus-contaminated objects, such as bedding and clothing.
Outbreaks can be controlled by infection prevention.
Vaccination against smallpox has been proven to be 85 percent effective in preventing monkeypox.
Antiviral drugs may also help and New Zealand has secured about 500 doses of one, called tecovirimat, for this.
-With additional reporting by BBC
Copyright © 2022, Radio New Zealand
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Photo: AFP / Joao Luiz Bulcao / Hans Lucas