Montreal’s Public Health Authority said it is asking health workers to be vigilant about monkeypox after seeing 17 suspected cases in the area over the past week.
But Director of Public Health Dr. Mylene Drouin said the disease is not highly contagious and is the milder of the two strains.
She said the virus is transmitted by “close contact” and respiratory droplets and is not a sexually transmitted disease, although those infected in the Montreal area so far are gay men.
She also said it’s not a disease that health officials think will enter general community transmission — it’s not contagious enough for that.
“It’s not something you can have when you work in your own grocery store [shopping] or on public transportation.
So far in Montreal ‘most of them  “The cases are men who have had sexual relations with other men between the ages of 30 and 55,” Drouin said.
“The clinical manifestation is mainly painful sores in the parts of the mouth and genitals, with a pre-eruptive phase with fever, sweating, and headache.”
“Most of our cases are not serious,” she added.
These symptoms are consistent with well-known descriptions of monkeypox, a rare disease that can present as fever, headache and fatigue.
After a few days, patients usually develop a rash that often begins on the face before spreading to other parts of the body. Most patients recover within weeks, although it can be fatal in some cases.
A distinctive feature of monkeypox, compared to smallpox, is that it causes the lymph nodes to swell, according to the CDC.
Montreal does not yet have lab confirmation that the 17 cases are, in fact, monkeypox, but after learning of other outbreaks in Europe and a case in the United States linked to travel to Montreal, Public Health “changed the tack” of their investigation, Druin said.
She said the first case was reported in Montreal on May 12, last Thursday. There are now 15 suspected cases in the city, one on the North Shore and one on the South Shore.
All known local patients are in isolation and asked to cover their skin lesions with bandages, Darwin said.
The disease can be transmitted by anyone in close contact with others, such as a family member, especially when exposed to skin lesions or objects that have touched them.
Smallbox baby vaccine may offer some protection
As to whether a vaccine will be introduced, that decision will be made at the provincial and federal levels. The first step, Darwin said, is to find out if a vaccine is available.
“There is a report on protection from taking the smallpox vaccine,” said Dr. Genevieve Bergeron, the medical officer in charge of health emergencies and infectious diseases.
She said Montreal authorities do not yet know how many Montreal residents have received the smallpox vaccine since their childhood.
Although this vaccine has been popular in previous decades, it has not been used in North America since the eradication of smallpox, which means that people in their 50s and older are more likely to have contracted it.
Listen on CJAD 800 Radio: Need to worry about monkeypox?
On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in the United States said in a statement that it had confirmed one case of the disease in an adult male who “recently traveled to Canada.”
It comes after five cases were identified in Portugal, seven in the UK and 23 in Spain.
Health officials are investigating whether cases in North America are linked to the outbreak in Europe.
Monkeypox is generally restricted to Africa, with a few cases seen elsewhere in the world usually associated with travel to that region.
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 in monkey colonies that were kept for research.
The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
– With files from The Canadian Press.