Six confirmed cases of mpox (monkeypox) and one probable case have been recorded in Auckland.

Public health officials said links had been identified between most of the cases, with transmission of the virus taking place in New Zealand.

Mpox was first reported in Aotearoa in July 2022, when the viral disease was spreading to dozens of countries around the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared that particular global health emergency over in May last year, however people still need to be aware of the disease, as shown by the seven recent cases reported in Auckland.

Here’s what you need to know about its symptoms, treatments and how it spreads.

The virus formerly known as monkeypox

Mpox is a viral disease that was first reported in humans in the 1970s.

It used to be known as monkeypox, however, WHO renamed the disease mpox in late 2022 due to concerns over “racist and stigmatising language”.

Anyone can get mpox, however cases in New Zealand have mostly affected men who have sex with men and their sexual partners.

How does mpox spread?

The virus is not very contagious and needs prolonged contact to spread, according to Te Whatu Ora.

It can be transmitted through close physical or sexual skin-to-skin contact with someone who has mpox.

It can also spread via direct contact with the skin lesions or saliva of someone with the virus or by touching clothing, sheets and towels used by people with the rash.

People can contract mpox by breathing in respiratory droplets from an infected person, however people would need to be in close contact for a prolonged time for this to happen.

Mpox is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transmitted between humans and animals, however this is very, very rare.

The symptoms of mpox

Most people who get mpox develop a rash or skin lesions that can spread to their hands, feet, inside their mouth and on their genitals — and can be very painful. People can also experience discomfort or bleeding in their rectum.

Cold and flu-like symptoms are also common, like fever, headaches, body aches, fatigue, and swollen glands.

The symptoms can last two to four weeks and usually clear up by themselves.

People with mpox are infectious from when they first have symptoms until their lesions have healed.

What should you do if you think you have mpox?

People who think they have mpox or may have had contact with someone with mpox should stay home and seek medical advice about getting tested.

Testing for mpox is free for people who have symptoms of the illness or have been asked to test for it.

The test involves the swabbing of lesions. If there are no lesions, people could be asked to do a throat or rectal swab, or a blood test.

People might need to stay at home and isolate while waiting for a test result, however Te Whatu Ora says this will depend on symptoms and circumstances.

It does recommend avoiding physical contact with other people while waiting for test results.

If someone is confirmed as having mpox they need to isolate at home for at least seven days. Te Whatu Ora has more detailed information on its website about what to do while in isolation with mpox.

What about the vaccine?

The mpox vaccine is available in New Zealand, however because it is an unapproved medicine here, people can only get one after consultation with a health professional first.

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