Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

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Monkeypox outbreak

About Monkeypox
Monkeypox (MPX) is a viral infection that is mainly spread through skin-to-skin contact with someone who has MPX. While it is not very contagious, there has recently been an increase in cases globally. MPX is zoonotic, which means it can pass between animals and humans. 

Current situation
MPX is endemic in parts of Central and West Africa. In May 2022 a global outbreak was confirmed and cases have since been reported in more than 80 countries.

While anyone can get MPX, the current global outbreak has disproportionately impacted:

-    men who have sex with men (MSM)

-    people who have sex with MSM (this may include people of any gender or sexual identity, whether they are transgender, cisgender or non-binary).

There may be a higher risk for these communities, and amongst those who may have multiple or anonymous sexual partners.

Prevention advice for travellers
People travelling to an area where there is a current MPX outbreak should:

-    avoid close physical or sexual skin-to-skin contact with someone who has MPX or MPX symptoms

-    avoid direct contact with the skin rashes, lesions, scabs or bodily fluids of someone with MPX

-    avoid physical contact with the clothing, bedding or towels of a person with MPX

People travelling to countries where MPX is endemic should also avoid contact with any animals that could harbour the virus, especially any that are sick or have been found dead in areas where MPX occurs.

It’s also important to practice good hygiene, including washing hands with soap and water or alcohol based sanitiser.

People travelling overseas should check (before they travel) what medical cover their insurance includes, in case they need to isolate or seek medical care.

MPX does not spread easily between people. The ways the virus can be passed on include:

-    Close physical, intimate or sexual contact with someone who has MPX, via skin-to-skin contact

-    Direct contact with the skin rashes, lesions, scabs or bodily fluids of someone with MPX

-    Touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with a MPX rash

MPX can also be passed on through breathing in droplets that have been exhaled by someone who has the virus. As this requires prolonged contact and for people to be very close together, the risk of the virus spreading in this way is very low.

In endemic areas, spread of MPX may occur when a person comes into close contact with a wild animal (such as a rodent) infected with the virus, or if they ingest wild game derived from an infected animal.

People with MPX are contagious from when they develop their first symptoms until their rash lesions crust, dry or fall off. This normally takes around two-to-four weeks.

Symptoms and seeking advice
Monkeypox (MPX) symptoms can include a rash, spots or blisters. Some people also develop cold and flu symptoms, including a fever or swollen glands.

If you develop symptoms stay home, self-isolate and seek advice. Many illnesses can cause similar symptoms so it may not be MPX, but it’s important to get help. 

If you’re in New Zealand you can contact a sexual health clinic for free advice, call your GP, or ring Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116. 

If you need to visit a medical practice or hospital for care, you should call ahead before visiting to let them know you are coming and tell them about your symptoms. To avoid passing on MPX to others, wear a well-fitted medical mask, cover any rashes or blisters on your skin, and travel via private transport.

Further information

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