MPOX (Monkeypox)

Page updated: 18 January 2023

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

MPOX (also referred to as the ‘monkeypox’ virus) is a viral infection that causes a rash. It is spread by skin-to-skin contact with someone who has MPOX, including during sex and through sexual networks. 

Since May 2022, there has been a global increase in MPOX cases reported from multiple countries where MPOX is not usually seen. Most of the cases are in men who have sex with men.

While most cases have been acquired overseas, a small number have acquired their infections in Australia.

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

 

Latest update

 

18 January 2023

 

Many of the cases of MPOX are in men who have sex with men and have been acquired overseas, but some cases in NSW have been acquired through local transmission.

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

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 MPOX.

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

For more information about reducing risk of MPOX, click here.

 

MPOX vaccine rollout in NSW

 

ACON and our partner NSW Health thank the NSW public for their patience in accessing the JYNNEOS MPOX vaccine.

All sexually active gay, bisexual men and men who have sex with men (cis and trans), as well as anyone who has sex with these men, including women (cis and trans), and non-binary people, and sex workers are now be eligible to get the vaccine.

NSW Health have also launched a new online booking system allowing people to make appointments online privately and securely, and they have established more temporary MPOX vaccination sites across the state, including regional NSW.

There is a limited number of appointments and vaccine supply available, so we encourage you to book ASAP if you meet the eligibility criteria. If you miss out, please keep checking this page for further updates.

For more information, visit our MPOX Vaccination Information page here

Book your free MPOX vaccine via NSW Health here

 

 

FAQ: Frequently asked questions about MPOX

 

What are the symptoms of MPOX?

Symptoms of MPOX 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 MPOX can be up to 21 days.

People may experience all or only a few of these symptoms. Most people with MPOX 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 MPOX?

If you develop any symptoms or think you have been exposed to MPOX:

* 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.

 

I’ve just been told I’m a close contact for MPOX. What should I do now? 

If you have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for MPOX, you will will receive a call from the Public Health Unit.

Follow the Public Health Unit’s recommendations, including instructions on if and when and how to attend a health service for review. 

If you have any questions or concerns contact NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.

 

How is MPOX transmitted?

MPOX 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 MPOX can also infect others.

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

It may be passed on during sex. It is not known how long MPOX remains present in semen and other genital excretions. People who have recovered from MPOX should use condoms when engaging in sexual activity for eight weeks after recovery.

 

How is MPOX treated?

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

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

 

Is there a vaccine that protects against MPOX?

Smallpox vaccines can provide protection against MPOX because the two viruses are closely related.

NSW Health secured limited supplies of a new vaccine against smallpox (JYNNEOS) which has fewer side effects than previous smallpox vaccines and can be safely used by all groups of people, including those who are immunocompromised.

NSW Health began vaccinating people at most risk of MPOX from August 2022.

ACON and our partners are working with health authorities to facilitate vaccine access to Australians as quickly as possible.

For more information on the NSW Health vaccination program, go to the NSW MPOX Vaccination page here

 

How can I reduce the risk of MPOX 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 MPOX.

* 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 MPOX transmission.

 

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

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 MPOX 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

* Use a condom during sex for at least 8 weeks after recovery from MPOX

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 MPOX 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 suppressed immune systems are at greater risk of MPOX, or ill-health from catching the virus, then updated information and advice will be made available.

 

Why are cases of MPOX 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 MPOX 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 MPOX 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 MPOX 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.

During this time, consider having a break from sex until the end of the incubation period. 

If you develop any symptoms, 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 MPOX is changing rapidly. If you are planning to travel overseas, it is important to stay informed and remain aware of developments:.

* Get vaccinate if you are able. People travelling locations with known MPOX outbreaks are considered at high risk and are eligible to get the vaccine. Be sure you allow enough time to get two doses before travel. 

* 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 MPOX. If attending these, consider adopting safe sex strategies to reduce your risk of MPOX transmission.

* Visit WHO for an updated list of affected destinations.

* Visit Smart Traveller for travel alerts.

You can reduce your risk of contracting MPOX overseas:

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

* 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 - Monkeypox Informatoion Hub

Australian Department of Health - Information Page on Monkeypox

World Health Organization page on MPOX - 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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