MPXV (Monkeypox)

Page updated: 6 July 2022

 

MPXV (Monkeypox): Information for LGBTQ+ communities in NSW

MPXV (also referred to as the ‘monkeypox’ virus) is a viral illness that until recently was associated with travel to Central and West Africa. However, since May 2022 people with a MPXV illness have been identified in countries in Europe, Asia and North America.

The situation with MPXV is changing rapidly and we're still learning about this infection.

ACON is continuing to monitor developments and will provide updates to our communities as the situation evolves.

 

Latest update | 6 July 2022

There are now confirmed locally acquired cases of MPXV in parts of Australia, including very likely in NSW.

Overseas, MPXV transmission is increasing significantly, particularly in Europe.

You are most likely to acquire MPXV following close skin-to-skin contact with someone who has MPXV and has rashes, lesions or sores. This can happen when you are having sex.

You can also acquire MPXV when a person with MPXV sneezes or coughs (and you inhale infected droplets) or by touching items contaminated with MPXV.

ACON advises our communities to regularly monitor for symptoms such as unusual rashes, lesions or sores or a fever, muscle aches or swollen lymph nodes. This is particularly important if you have attended any gatherings involving skin-to-skin contact with other people, have had close physical contact with others including sexual encounters, or if you have recently returned from or are travelling to an international location with known cases of MPXV.

If you develop any symptoms, self-isolate and seek medical attention immediately (see below).

Exchange contact details with the people you hook up with so they can be reached if needed. This will assist with contact tracing.

Read the latest public health alert from NSW Health here.

 

FAQ: Frequently asked questions about MPXV

 

What are the symptoms of MPXV?

Symptoms of MPXV seen in Australia and Europe include skin lesions, sores or a rash alongside a fever, headache, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes.

The rash, lesions or sores may be in areas that are hard to see such as the genitals and anus, anal area or in the mouth. They may also be on the face, arm, chest, back and legs.

The rash, lesions or sores may vary from person to person – for some it can look like pimples, for others they may resemble blisters. Rashes may also look like herpes or syphilis.

Most people develop symptoms in 1-2 weeks but the incubation period (the time from infection to the onset of symptoms) of MPXV can be up to 21 days.

People may experience all or only a few of these symptoms. Most people with MPXV will get a rash, while others may develop sores before developing flu-like symptoms. Some may not develop any flu-like symptoms at all.

 

What should I do if I develop symptoms or have been exposed to MPXV?

If you develop any symptoms or have been exposed to MPXV:

* Avoid contact with others and seek medical attention immediately.

* Call your GP or local sexual health clinic via phone or use telehealth services.

* Call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.

Remember:

* Do not attend a health service in the first instance – call first.

* Avoid public transport.

* Wear a surgical mask.

* Cover any lesions with clothing or dressings. Ask your GP or clinic what type of skin dressing to use.

* Avoid sex or being intimate with anyone until examined.

* Avoid gatherings, particularly if they involve close, skin-to-skin contact with other people.

 

How is MPXV transmitted?

MPXV is transmitted through close physical contact with someone who has symptoms. This includes through:

* Skin rashes, lesions or sores

* Bodily fluids (such as fluid, pus or blood from skin lesions)

* Scabs

* Ulcers, lesions or sores in the mouth (meaning the virus can spread through kissing)

* Ulcers, lesions or sores in and around the anal area and anus

Clothing, linens or objects that have come into contact with a person who has MPXV can also infect others.

You can also acquire MPXV when a person with MPXV has respiratory symptoms and sneezes or coughs and you inhale infected droplets.

MPXV has not been previously described as a sexually transmitted infection but it can spread in sexual networks through direct contact during sex or clothing, bedding and sex toys used by someone with MPXV.

 

How is MPXV treated?

Most people with MPXV have a mild illness meaning that it resolves within a few weeks without specific treatment.

There are some therapies available for the treatment of MPXV, particularly for people at high-risk such as those who are immunosuppressed.

 

Is there a vaccine that protects against MPXV?

MPXV is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox. This means the smallpox vaccine can protect people from getting MPXV.

However, these vaccines do have serious side effects and adverse events, especially in certain groups of people such as those who are severely immunosuppressed. Because of this, these vaccines are not recommended for mass vaccination.

Newer MPXV vaccines currently in use overseas are not yet approved in Australia.

ACON and our partners are working with health authorities to facilitate vaccine access in Australia as quickly as possible, particularly for higher risk groups in our communities.

Your doctor or sexual health clinic is the best place to advise you on how to best manage your condition.

 

How can I reduce the risk of MPXV at festivals, clubs and parties?

There are simple steps you can take before venturing out to help protect yourself and your community:

* Seek information from trusted sources like local health authorities – particularly when travelling interstate and overseas.

* Check yourself for symptoms before you leave home. If you feel unwell or sick, or have any rashes or sores, do not attend event or venues. Self-isolate and seek medical attention.

Consider the type of event you are planning to attend and how much direct skin-to-skin contact is likely to happen:

* Events such as festivals and concerts where people are fully clothed and unlikely to have skin-to-skin contact, are low risk. But remember that close physical contact such as kissing may spread MPXV.

* Events such as a party or club where there is less clothing worn, and therefore a higher likelihood of direct skin-to-skin contact, has some risk. Avoid any rashes or sores you see on others and minimise skin-to-skin to contact.

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

 

MPXV and sex: How can I reduce the risk of MPXV?

It’s important to be self-aware when it comes to our health so always monitor for symptoms before, during and after sex.

If you or a partner has MPVX, the best way to protect yourself and others is to avoid any skin-to-skin contact, especially with any rash, lesions or sores. Self-isolate and seek medical attention immediately.

Here are some safe sex strategies to reduce your risk of MPXV to consider:

* Use virtual methods (eg. phone, webcam) with no person-to-person contact

* Masturbate together without touching each other

* Reduce as much skin-to-skin contact as possible by leaving on clothing

* Avoid kissing

* Avoid sharing sex toys

REMEMBER:

* Practice good hygiene after sex such as washing your hands, sex toys

* Exchange contact information with your sexual partners to assist with contact tracing if needed.

 

Am I at greater risk if I’m HIV-positive?

There is very limited evidence on MPXV in people living with HIV. Most is based on research in countries where access to treatment is low, and people experience far negative health outcomes than in Australia.

At the moment people living with HIV should follow the same advice as the general population.

Should evidence emerge that people with supressed immune systems are at greater risk of MPXV, or ill-health from catching the virus, then updated information and advice will be made available.

 

Why are cases of MPXV being detected among gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men?

A large number of cases detected overseas are among gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men. One reason for this is the active health seeking behaviour of gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men around sexual health. Because MPXV rashes can resemble some STIs, such as herpes or syphilis, cases are being detected in sexual health clinics around the world.

It’s important to note that the risk of MPXV is not limited to gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men. Anyone who has close contact with someone who is infectious is at risk.

Stigmatising people because of a disease is never okay. Anyone can get or pass on MPXV regardless of their sexuality.

 

If you have recently returned from overseas ...

If you have recently returned from overseas, have attended any dance parties, sex parties or saunas – especially in Europe – keep an eye out for symptoms for 21 days and if symptoms develop particularly an unusual rash, lesions or sores, seek medical advice immediately.

Call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624 or call your GP or local sexual health clinic via phone or telehealth.

Remember: do not attend a health service in the first instance – be sure to call first.

 

If you are planning to travel overseas ...

The situation with MPXV is changing rapidly. If you are planning to travel overseas, it is important to stay informed and remain aware of developments:.

* Follow public health alerts and advice from local health authorities of the countries you are visiting.

* Keep alert of any event updates (before and after) from organisers if you are visiting festivals or large events.

* Be aware and exercise caution if you plan to attend sex parties or SOPVs, particularly in places where there are identified cases of MPXV. If attending these, consider adopting safe sex strategies to reduce your risk of MPXV transmission.

* Visit WHO for an updated list of affected destinations.

* Visit Smart Traveller for travel alerts.

You can reduce your risk of contracting MPXV overseas:

* Avoid contact, including sexual contact, with people who are unwell or have MPXV symptoms.

* Avoid skin-to-skin contact, particularly with any rash, lesions or sores.

* Avoid contact with clothing, bedding or objects that have been in contact with or used by people with MPXV.

* Always practice good hygiene.

If you develop any symptoms overseas, self-isolate and seek local medical attention immediately.

 

Where can I get more information?

Here are some sources of information:

NSW Health - Factsheet on Monkeypox

Australian Department of Health - Information Page on Monkeypox

World Health Organization page on MPXV - Information Page on Monkeypox

Smart Traveller page on Monkeypox

You can also call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.

NSW Health have translated information factsheets available in:

Further reading:

Croakey Health Media | 'Monkeypox: learn from the past, be prepared, act quickly and lose the prejudice'

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