With monkeypox now in 15 countries, a leading epidemiologist says it's "too soon to tell" if the virus is in New Zealand.
Associate Professor of epidemiology Arindam Basu told Newstalk ZB's Kate Hawkesby this morning that although there are no recorded or suspected cases in New Zealand it's too early to say for sure.
"We don't know that [the virus is here], we haven't heard it's been here but it's too early to tell."
He says it's unlikely monkeypox will cause the same global disruption that Covid-19 has.
"It's a disease which is very different from Covid-19 because it does not easily get transferred from person to person, it can be identified really quickly and there's a long incubation period too – for all these reasons, it is self-limiting so we're not really looking at a situation like Covid-19."
He conceded the rapid rise of cases is concerning - more than 80 cases have now been recorded in at least 15 countries, including Australia.
The illness is usually mild and is most common in remote parts of Central and West Africa.
The World Health Organisation says this outbreak is unusual, as it is occurring in non-endemic countries,with very few links back to where it is usually found.
Although it's unclear why the disease is spreading now, there's little to indicate it has mutated in any meaningful way - instead, it's possible the conditions have just been perfect for it to thrive.
Basu says while there is concern, there shouldn't be panic.
"Rather than people panic it's important to say it's a problem, we should watch it but it's not going to kill people in the same way Covid has."
While there is no vaccine specifically for monkeypox, the smallpox vaccine has around 85 per cent efficacy in protecting against it.
Professor Basu says people aged 20–50 seem to be at higher risk, as are men who have sex with men. Also in the line of fire are people who work in animal trades - like pet shops, or people dealing with exotic animals.
The symptoms begin like the flu – lethargy, and fever but then develop into a rash and pustules. The majority of people recover from monkeypox within a few weeks.