Ministry continues to monitor Monkeypox situation

News article

25 May 2022

The Ministry of Health continues to monitor the outbreak of Monkeypox cases overseas. There are no reported confirmed or suspected cases of Monkeypox in New Zealand at this stage.

It is possible a case will be imported but the current risk to New Zealand is assessed as low. This risk is being reviewed regularly as new information emerges internationally.

The Ministry is working with Pharmac to explore options for access to Smallpox vaccines that can be considered for the targeted prevention of Monkeypox.

While there is no vaccine specifically for Monkeypox, some Smallpox vaccines can provide protection against the virus. An older Smallpox vaccine (second generation) that was used in New Zealand for travellers until the mid-1980s has now been assessed more fully and it has been decided that it is not suitable for the prevention of Monkeypox. This vaccine will not be considered in any response to Monkeypox.

Other countries, including Australia, have a newer, second generation smallpox vaccine that is being offered to close contacts at high risk of infection. A third generation was approved for use in United States in 2019 for the prevention of Monkeypox, however there are limited international supplies. This vaccine is currently being used in the United Kingdom.

A Monkeypox PCR test is being validated in New Zealand and will be available soon. In the interim, sequencing technology at ESR can provide provisional results for presence of the monkeypox virus. Until a vaildated test is available in New Zealand, samples from suspected cases will also be sent to a laboratory in Australia where a validated PCR test is already available.

The Ministry has also established an initial assessment team and will continue to monitor the situation and establish an outbreak response if one or more cases are identified in New Zealand.

Since reports of Monkeypox emerged, the Ministry has put up information about the virus on its website. We are also working on advice for travellers and advice to public health units, primary health organisations and sexual health clinics.

The Ministry’s advice to the health sector around case definition, testing protocols, and treatment is being refined as more is known internationally. Updated advice will continue to be shared with the sector.

If anyone is concerned about Monkeypox, they can contact Healthline or seek medical advice.

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