A case of monkeypox disease has been confirmed in Victoria, in a returned traveller from Britain.
The confirmation means Australia has joined a growing list of nations affected by the rare tropical illness.
Victoria’s health department reported the case on Friday afternoon.
The traveller, a man in his 30s, developed mild symptoms before landing in Melbourne on May 16 and sought immediate medical attention. A general practitioner referred him for testing, which came back positive, and he was placed in isolation at The Alfred hospital on Thursday.
Monkeypox did not easily spread between people, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said.
“There are few close contacts that have been identified. Obviously the GP is one of them,” he said on Friday.
Contact tracing is also underway for passengers seated near the man on board flight EY10 from London to Abu Dhabi on May 14 and flight EY462 from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne on May 16.
They are being asked to monitor for symptoms and isolate if they develop symptoms.
Friday’s confirmation of the Victorian case came just hours after NSW Health said it had also detected a possible case of monkeypox in another traveller who recently returned from Europe.
NSW Health said the man, in his early 40s, had developed a mild illness several days after returning home. His GP assessed his symptoms as similar to the disease.
Confirmation testing is under way and the man and a household contact are isolating at home, NSW Health said.
“We have a very likely case, to be confirmed in the next day or so, of monkey virus,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said in Sydney.
They are the first confirmed, and likely, cases of the disease as outbreaks have emerged in several European nations, the US and Canada in recent weeks.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said monkeypox was a rare viral infection that did not spread easily between people. It is usually associated with travel to Central or West Africa, where it is endemic.
“The infection is usually a mild illness and most people recover within a few weeks,” she said.
Several cases of monkeypox have been reported in Britain, Spain and Portugal this year, including some local transmission.
Overnight, Italy and Sweden became the latest countries to report cases of the rare disease.
Monkeypox can be transmitted from person to person through air droplets, close bodily contact or sharing contaminated linens or objects.
According to the Swedish Public Health Agency, there is one person infected in the greater Stockholm area.
“The person infected with the virus in Sweden is not seriously ill but is receiving treatment,” infectious disease expert Klara Sonden said in a statement.
“We do not yet know where the person became infected. The investigation into this is ongoing.”
An infection has also been detected in Italy, with a patient confirmed at the country’s National Institute for Infectious Diseases. The infected man had reportedly returned from a trip to Spain’s Canary Islands and is in isolation in a hospital in Rome.
The French Health Ministry said on Thursday the first suspected case of the monkeypox virus on French territory had been detected in the Paris/Ile-de-France region.
The World Health Organisation, already busy with the coronavirus pandemic, has called for vigorous contact tracing of the spate of cases.
Four countries in Africa had already reported cases of monkeypox in 2022 – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria – the WHO said.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention announced an American infection on Wednesday.
A resident of the US state of Massachusetts had been confirmed with monkeypox by the CDC labs. They had recently travelled to Canada using private transport, the CDC said.
Canadian broadcaster CBC reported that health officials in Quebec were investigating if monkeypox had broken out there after being notified a visitor to the province was later confirmed as a case.
In Spain, eight infections were reported in the capital Madrid, according to Europa Press news agency.
In Portugal, the newspaper Público reported that 20 people had been infected.
The majority of the cases reported so far involve men who have had sexual contact with other men.
Britain also has nine cases, health authorities said on Wednesday. The first, detected in early May, was a person who recently returned from Nigeria.
British authorities have advised the public, especially men who have sex with men, to be alert to any lesions on their bodies.
The virus usually causes symptoms similar to smallpox but milder. Cases can also be severe.
Smallpox has been considered eradicated worldwide since 1980 after a major vaccination campaign.
Experts suspect that the pathogen that causes monkeypox circulates in rodents – monkeys are so-called false hosts.