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With the global outbreak of MPOX (aka monkeypox), international travellers need to be aware of MPOX and how it's spread; however, there have also been locally acquired cases here in Australia.

It’s time for everyone to become familiar with MPOX and how to prevent it.

Updated 3 AUGUST 2023

There have been two locally acquired cases of MPOX recently reported in Victoria. While MPOX cases internationally continue to spread, the risk of local transmission and transmission linked to international travel remains.


Keen to get vaccinated against MPOX?

If you're in the Melbourne area, contact our Centre Clinic on (03) 9525 5866 or check out the Emen8 'Find a Service' interactive map and filter by 'Monkeypox Vaccination' to find a clinic near you.

Find a Service via Emen8

How does the vaccine work?
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The JYNNEOS vaccine is a two-dose vaccine. There needs to be a minimum of 28 days or four weeks between doses.

Vaccination is highly effective, and a person will start to build protection in the days and weeks after their first dose, but it takes two weeks for someone to reach their highest level of protection following each dose.

The JYNNEOS vaccine is safe to use in people who are immunocompromised.

What vaccine is available for MPOX?
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The vaccine that is currently available to prevent MPOX is the JYNNEOS vaccine.

Will the vaccine leave a mark?
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All MPOX vaccinations are now being delivered subcutaneously or via an injection in the upper arm (similar to a COVID or flu vaccination) and unlikely to leave a mark.

Previously, many people received the MPOX vaccine intradermally or via a shallow injection just under the skin in the forearm. Intradermal injections often left a temporary mark. Intradermal injections don't require the same amount of vaccine, and this was done to maximise the number of people who could received the vaccine during global shortages in 2022.

Am I eligible for my second dose?
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There needs to be a minimum of 28 days or four weeks between your first and second dose to optimise the level of protection from the vaccine. And for most people, the first dose will give considerable protection after roughly two weeks.

The second dose does not need to be administered immediately after 28 days. Waiting longer than 28 days to receive the second dose does not compromise the level of protection from the first dose.

What are the common side effects of the vaccine?
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Side effects are common but usually mild. Most people have redness, swelling and pain in the spot where they received the injection. Tiredness, headache and muscle pain can also occur after vaccination.

Do I need a Medicare card to receive the vaccine?
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No. While some vaccination sites may ask you to bring a Medicare card along to your appointment, MPOX vaccines are available at no charge to everyone regardless of their Medicare status.

Whilst the vaccine is free of charge, consultation may not be. Speak to clinic staff to verify any consultation related fees.


What is MPOX?
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MPOX is a viral infection. While MPOX was first identified several years ago, cases of MPOX were rarely seen outside of Central and West Africa. MPOX is usually a self-limited disease with the symptoms lasting from 2 to 4 weeks.

What are the symptoms?
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Initial symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle aches, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes (similar to COVID or the flu) before progressing to a skin rash or lesions. The rash usually begins within one to three days of the start of a fever. The rash or lesions can also be found on the face, arms, and legs as well as in the mouth and around the genitals/anus.

Because MPOX rashes can resemble some STIs (for example herpes), it is important to contact your GP or local sexual health clinic and let them know about your symptoms when you make an appointment.

The incubation period (the time from infection to the onset of symptoms) of MPOX is usually 7-14 days, but it can be as short as 1-2 days or as long as 21 days.

While symptoms are typically mild, for some people with moderate to serious cases MPOX can be quite painful.

How is it transmitted?
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MPOX is transmitted through close physical contact with someone who has the virus - in particular through sexual or intimate contact.

While MPOX is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), sexual contact with someone who has the virus poses a high risk of transmission.

Bodily fluids (such as fluid, pus or blood from skin lesions) and scabs are particularly infectious. Ulcers, lesions or sores in the mouth can also be infectious, meaning the virus can spread through saliva.

How is it treated?
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Most people with MPOX have a mild self-limiting illness and recover 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.

Why are many cases of being detected among men who have sex with men?
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Currently, a large number of MPOX cases are among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) and the current outbreak appears to be moving quickly amongst sexual networks.

One reason we're seeing more cases amongst MSM is due is their proactivity seek out sexual health advice. MPOX rashes and lesions can resemble some STIs, such as herpes or syphilis. Consequently, MPOX cases are being detected in sexual health clinics around the world.

However, the risk of MPOX is not limited to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. Anyone who has close intimate or sexual contact with someone infectious is at risk.

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

It's also really important you're aware of your HIV status. Experiencing MPOX alongside untreated HIV or STIs may make your symptoms worse. Find out more about getting tested here.

Am I at greater risk if I’m HIV-positive?
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HIV positive people on effective antiretroviral treatment are at no greater risk than HIV-negative people.

However, if a person is severely immunocompromised and not on HIV antiviral medication, MPOX can be of greater severity and duration.

There is very limited evidence on MPOX in people living with HIV. The research that we do have is from countries where access to treatment is low and health experiences are poorer than in Australia. 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.

What if I have recently returned from overseas?
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If you recently returned from overseas, in particular if you've being having casual sex while overseas or attended sex-on-premises venues, it's important that you monitor for symptoms. The MPOX rash can appear at multiple sites across the body, so check around your mouth, genitals and anus for any new spots or lesions.

People who have recently returned from overseas and developed symptoms, particularly an unusual rash or swollen lymph nodes, should seek medical advice immediately.

You should stay at home and remain isolated until given further advice by your treating doctor. If you are presenting to a clinic or emergency department, call to let them know you are coming, wear a mask, inform the reception staff on arrival, and wait to be isolated until you can be seen by a clinician.

MPOX can be transmitted to pets. If you are isolating and experiencing symptoms, it is recommended that you isolate away from any pets.

MPOX can also be transmitted via clothing and other materials, so it is recommended that you wash all clothing items, towels and sex toys that you took overseas.

How is it prevented?
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To reduce your risk of acquiring MPOX, there are some practices and behaviours you can adopt.

When it comes to sex:

  • Limit the number of sexual partners you have. MPOX is moving through sexual networks. Limiting the number of partners you have reduces your risk of coming into contact with someone who has the virus.
  • Swap contact information with your hook-ups. If either of you develops symptoms, you can contact each other to go and get tested.
  • When having sex there are ways to limit skin-to-skin contact and contact with bodily fluids. So maybe don’t kiss or cuddle, avoid using spit for lube, use condoms, and be sure to wash your face, hands, and body parts after sex. Some may want to consider using condoms for receptive anal sex to reduce the risk of anal infection.
  • Create a 'sex bubble'. Similar to what some people did during COVID, you can have a select group of people where you are only having sex with each other. Each person agrees that they’d be happy to be part of the bubble and won’t have sex outside of that group. This limits the risk that you and your sex bubble come into contact with the virus.
  • If you have an open relationship, you might want to consider making it a closed relationship in the short term. The less people you play with, the less likely you are to come into contact with the virus.
  • Explore ways to get off by yourself or at a distance from others. Looking for ideas? Check out tips our community came up with for Sex & COVID or listen to WellWellWell's episode on Sex, Intimacy & COVID-19.

If you are planning to travel overseas:

  • Book an appointment to get your MPOX vaccine. Ensure there are two weeks between getting the vaccine and engaging in behaviour that may expose you to the virus. It takes at least two weeks to offer the initial levels of protection against MPOX.
  • Follow public health alerts and advice from local health authorities of the countries you are visiting.
  • If visiting festivals or large events, keep alert of any event updates (before and after) from organisers.
  • Be aware and exercise caution if you plan to attend any events or venues that may include dark rooms, play spaces, or sex-on-premises.

Additional behaviours or practices that may limit the risk of MPOX:

  • Check yourself for symptoms before heading out. If you are unwell or have a rash - stay home and seek a medical opinion.
  • Consider the type of event and venue you're going to. Close skin-to-skin contact in spaces where people may be wearing little-to-no clothes or spaces where sex is happening puts you at a greater risk of exposure.
  • Don’t share personal items, such as towels, toothbrushes, and sex toys.
  • Better to stay in your own bed than to sleep in someone else’s bed sheets.

These strategies may help reduce your risk of MPOX, but the most effective tool for prevention is vaccination.

We spoke with Dr Vincent Cornelisse to unpack what we know about the MPOX outbreak - including vaccines and other ways to limit your risk of acquiring MPOX.


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