Australian authorities have identified a probable case of monkeypox in a man who recently returned from Europe, as Canada confirmed its first two cases, amid a growing outbreak of the rare disease in non-endemic countries.
The man in his 40s developed a mild illness a few days after arriving back in Sydney, showing symptoms clinically compatible with monkeypox, New South Wales (NSW) state health department said. The man and a household contact are isolating at home.
Canada reported its first two confirmed cases of monkeypox on Thursday night.
“Tonight, the Province of Quebec was notified that two samples received by the NML (National Microbiology Laboratory) have tested positive for monkeypox. These are the first two cases confirmed in Canada,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a release.
A further 17 suspected cases are under investigation in Montreal, Quebec’s largest city, authorities said.
Cases of monkeypox have been identified in several non-endemic countries in Europe and North America this month after the United Kingdom notified the World Health Organization of a case in early May.
Health authorities suspect some of the infections may have occurred through sexual contact – in this instance among gay or bisexual men – with four of the UK cases identified among people who visited sexual health clinics after developing the rash associated with monkeypox.
The disease was first recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s and mostly occurs in West and Central Africa. Similar to human smallpox, but milder, its symptoms include fever, headaches and skin rashes that start on the face and spread to the rest of the body. Patients usually recover within a few weeks.
Health officials in NSW have taken steps to identify and manage any potential monkeypox cases, including clinical alerts to doctors and hospitals across the state, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted on Wednesday that anyone “can spread monkeypox through contact with body fluids, monkeypox sores, or shared items (such as clothing and bedding) that have been contaminated with fluids or sores of a person with monkeypox,” adding that household disinfectants can kill the virus on surfaces.