Monkeypox view under the microscope

Monkeypox is now a global emergency. How is it contracted and can it be cured?

Thousands of cases of monkeypox have been reported from several countries where the virus is not endemic, including Australia.

Amid the surge in COVID-19, health experts are urging the federal government to monitor monkeypox as cases appear across the country.

What do monkeypox look like? How is it infected and can it be cured? Here’s what we know.

What do monkeypox look like?

The disease causes a rash that turns into a lesion filled with fluid or pus.

The lesions look like the blisters you see with chicken pox, but they are larger.

According to the Department of Health, they usually start in the head and neck area rather than centrally in most patients.

The number of lesions ranges from a few to several thousand.

Monkeypox lesions often appear on the palms of the hands.(CDC via A)

How is monkeypox contracted?

Disease is spread mainly through close contact.

The U.N. health agency said that outside of Africa, 99 percent of all reported cases of monkeypox are men. Of these, 98 percent are men who have sex with other men.


Avoiding close physical contact with infected people is the most effective way to prevent infection.

What are the symptoms?

Initial symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • fever
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • headache
  • body aches

Symptoms are usually followed by a severe rash which can appear on the face, genitals, inside the mouth, palms and soles.

The time between being infected and showing symptoms can usually be between seven and 14 days, but can range from five to 21 days, according to the Department of Health.

Is there a cure for monkeypox?

Monkey pox is a rare but potentially serious viral disease that spreads from person to person through close contact.

In very rare cases, the disease has proved fatal.

Australia has a vaccine and treatment options are available.

According to the Australian Department of Health, most people do not require treatment for monkeypox and will fully recover from the virus within a few weeks.

Those who become infected may need simple pain relievers and oral fluids, while a health professional monitors their symptoms.

Patients can discuss with their doctor whether antiviral treatment is needed.

A woman is holding a mockup of a bottle with a label
The disease spreads from person to person through close contact.(Reuters: Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

How many cases of monkeypox are there in Australia?

Since the disease was first reported on May 20 this year, more than 40 cases have since been confirmed.

Official Australian health figures as of 19 July show there have been 41 cases of monkeypox.

This includes 22 in New South Wales, 15 in Victoria, two in the Australian Capital Territory, one in Queensland and one in South Australia.

In addition to the national figures, the Northern Territory recorded its first case of monkeypox on 21 July.

NT Health said the confirmed case was found in a returned overseas traveler who was currently in isolation in the Top End.

Globally, there are now 16,000 cases in 75 countries and five deaths in the interim.

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Monkeypox has declared a global emergency

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