There are no cases of Monkeypox in New Zealand but today it's been added to the country's list of notifiable diseases. 

Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said "we are making sure we're as prepared as possible if any cases do appear here".

Monkeypox is a poxvirus and closely related to smallpox. It's less contagious than smallpox and causes less severe illness.

While smallpox only infected humans, monkeypox is an animal virus that occasionally infects humans after they are bitten or scratched by a monkey or other animal. That’s why it’s called monkeypox. 

Monkeypox is usually considered ‘endemic’ for Central and West Africa which means it is mainly found there but since 2013 there have been several outbreaks worldwide. 

Fever, flu-like symptoms and rashes are tell-tale signs of monkeypox.

By making monkeypox a notifiable disease, this means the Government can use tools to contain any possible spread of the disease. These tools include contact tracing and isolation orders. 

Medical professionals will have to notify the Medical Officer of Health about any known or suspected cases.

Verrall said New Zealand was monitoring the global situation. 

"The first cluster of cases was identified in the United Kingdom in May. Since June 2 over 780 cases have since been identified across 27 countries."

Verrall had a message to New Zealanders who have recently returned from overseas - continue good hand hand hygiene and isolate from others if you develop any monkeypox symptoms, especially a rash along with a fever and swollen lymph nodes. 

“Seek advice from the place you normally would get health advice from by contacting your GP or ring Healthline free on 0800 611 116, or getting in touch with a sexual health clinic."

The Ministry of Health has already created monkeypox testing protocols which include a PCR test and has created an initial monkeypox assessment team and will continue to monitor the situation and establish an outbreak response if one or more cases are identified in New Zealand.

Top Image: A lab worker holding a test tube that says 'Monkeypox'. (File photo) Photo: monkeybusinessimages/iStock

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