Fears monkeypox could spread undetected amid Covid surge

An infectious disease expert sounded the alarm that cases of monkeypox might go unnoticed as the nation deals with the latest wave of Omicrons.

Only 44 cases of monkeypox have been reported in Australia, including 24 in New South Wales, 16 in Victoria, two in the ACT, one in Queensland and one in South Australia.

But globally, the number of cases is following a “worrisome trajectory,” Dr. Paul Griffin said.

“Two weeks ago we were promised 10,000. We’re over 16,000 right now. It’s increasing in … the number of cases around the world, and it’s a bit of an alarming trajectory that clearly needs a response to try and slow it down,” he told ABC National Radio.

The National Emergency Center was activated over the weekend after the outbreak was declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization.

This is the second time the body has been activated in as many years and will see the Australian General Health Board coordinate state and territory responses.

Deakin University’s Department of Epidemiology Katherine Bennett said most of the cases in Australia were linked to international travel.

“We don’t see a lot of local broadcasts here. But at the same time, when you have numbers around the world, it’s much harder to understand when someone might have been exposed and manage that risk well,” she told Sky News.

The WHO declaration will ensure a “good public health response” to contain the spread of the virus, Dr. Bennett said.

“It’s better to focus on prevention than response,” she said.

But as Australia grapples with a growing number of Covid-19 cases, Dr Griffin warned that there is a possibility that cases will not be found.

“These kinds of pressures on the healthcare system and the limited ability to deal with normal things really make it more likely that cases will be missed,” he said.

“We need to make sure we’re tackling the Covid problem… and continue to educate our doctors and the general public about this so that the chances of missing cases are as low as possible.”

A vaccine against the virus and treatments are available from the National Medical Reserve, but global supplies are “rather limited.”

“No one foresaw the gravity of this situation,” Dr. Griffin added.

Originally published as ‘Emergency’: Australia launches massive response to monkeypox