US, Australia governments make major monkeypox move

As the monkeypox outbreak hits another troubling milestone of over 20,000 cases, Australia and the United States have made major moves to help manage the spread of cases.

The global outbreak of monkeypox, which causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, in non-endemic countries had led to more than 20,311 cases across 71 countries, with the majority of cases in Europe.

Daily cases have been steadily increasing, with Our World in Data reporting a steep incline in cases over the past two months.

Monkeypox Daily confirmed cases.
Monkeypox Daily confirmed cases. Photo credit: Our World in Data

While only two cases have been reported in New Zealand so far - both of which are now classed as recovered - across the ditch in Australia there have been 44 cases.

On Thursday, the Australian government chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly declared the unfolding situation to be a "communicable disease incident of national significance".

The declaration means the virus now requires national policies, interventions, public messaging and deployment of resources to assist affected jurisdictions.

"It is far less harmful than COVID-19 and there have been no deaths reported during the current outbreak outside of countries where the virus is endemic," Prof Kelly said.

Most cases in Australia have been among people aged 21 to 40.

The US is also making moves against the rapidly spreading disease.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday it plans to make the rapidly spreading monkeypox disease a nationally notifiable condition.

The designation, which is set to take effect on August 1, updates criteria for reporting of data on cases by states to the agency and would allow the agency to monitor and respond to monkeypox even after the current outbreak recedes, the CDC said.

Over 3500 monkeypox cases were reported in the United States as of Tuesday, according to the CDC. 

States will be required to report confirmed or probable monkeypox cases within 24 hours. The CDC asked for data to be shared even before the investigation of a case was completed.

State health departments are currently not required to provide the federal government with standardised data on monkeypox.

The move comes as the disease was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization on Sunday.