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What is Monkeypox? FAQs from International Students

By now, you may have heard that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing outbreak of monkeypox a global emergency on 23 July 2022. If you’re unfamiliar with the disease, you likely have many questions: What is monkeypox? Is monkeypox dangerous? Do I need to be worried? In this guide, we answer all these FAQs and provide the most important information you need to know as an international student in Australia.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a relatively rare viral illness. Its symptoms are varied but the earliest symptoms are typically fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache and/or muscle aches. Shortly thereafter, a rash with small blisters typically appears, similar to smallpox. The rash can appear in many areas of the body, including the face, hands and/or inside of the mouth.

How is monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox can be spread from animals to humans and from human to human.

Person-to-person transmission can occur through:

  • Getting in close contact with lesions on the skin
  • Exchanging bodily fluids, including respiratory droplets
  • Sharing contaminated materials such as linen and towels

Is there a vaccine for monkeypox?

In Australia, there is one approved vaccine that can offer protection against monkeypox: ACAM2000. While this is a smallpox vaccination, it features the additional benefit of protecting against monkeypox.

However, not everyone needs this vaccine, particularly since most healthy people will make a full recovery from monkeypox on their own. At this stage, ACAM2000 is only recommended for healthcare professionals who administer vaccines to others and have not received a smallpox vaccine in the past. Other healthcare workers (including laboratory workers) who are likely to encounter patients with monkeypox may also want to consider getting the vaccination.

Is monkeypox dangerous? Should I be worried?

As of 24 July 2022, there are 44 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Australia. There is currently a health alert for monkeypox in Australia because the virus had not been detected in the country until May 2022.

You may feel worried about the monkeypox outbreak, particularly since it is occurring at the same time as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While your feelings are completely normal, it’s important not to panic or place undue stress on yourself. 

Monkeypox is not nearly as transmissible as many other viral infections, such as COVID-19. It also takes longer for monkeypox infections to develop and become transmissible within people, giving us more time to protect contacts and slow or stop the spread.

It’s also important to remember that monkeypox isn’t a new virus; it was first detected in humans over 50 years ago. As a result, health experts are more familiar with how it presents, how to treat it and how to contain it. 

The best way to protect yourself against monkeypox is to avoid close contact with people you know to be infected or who are showing symptoms. You can also stay up to date on the status of monkeypox in Australia here.