While Ontario was reporting a second case of monkeypox in Toronto on Wednesday, Ottawa Public Health confirmed it was testing some patients for the disease “out of great caution.” There were no positive results in the city.
Ottawa Public Health will not reveal how many people it has tested or why, but said it will report publicly if there is a positive case in the city.
“Out of extreme caution, we are working with health care providers to rule out monkeypox by testing some patients. Of those tested to date, results have been negative or there is little possibility of monkeypox, and the test is more precautionary,” Ottawa Public Health said in a statement. .
OPH said it is in contact with local doctors to provide information on symptoms, lab tests and diagnosis, infection control practices, treatment and reporting requirements as part of its monitoring.
Canada is among a growing number of countries outside Africa that have experienced unprecedented outbreaks of monkeypox, including cases that have spread locally, in recent weeks. There are also large outbreaks in parts of Africa where the disease is endemic.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization reported 550 cases worldwide in 30 countries where the disease is not endemic, nearly double the number it reported over the weekend.
Meanwhile, in Canada, there were 25 confirmed cases in Quebec and one in Ontario as of May 27, the latest information available from Health Canada. Ontario confirmed a second case in Toronto on Wednesday. Other counties have reported suspected cases.
The disease, from the same family as smallpox, is endemic in parts of West and Central Africa. It is very unusual outside of Africa, and rare cases in the past were usually associated with travel or contact with infected animals.
The outbreaks seen across Europe and North America differ from previous cases because there is evidence of person-to-person transmission.
“This is different. We have not seen this before,” said Dr. Rosamund Lewis, WHO technical officer for monkeypox, who is also the former Medical Officer of Health at Ottawa Public Health.
She said the World Health Organization was not concerned about a global pandemic of monkeypox yet, but urged countries to take action to prevent its further spread and health providers to monitor possible symptoms. They include: rash, fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache and myalgia.
The rodents act as a reservoir for disease in parts of Africa where it can spread to other animals and humans.
Canada reported its first cases in Montreal in mid-May. Montreal remains the epicenter of the outbreak in Canada, but there have also been two confirmed cases in Toronto. Canada, like other countries, is considering using the smallpox vaccine to protect those around confirmed cases. The smallpox vaccine is believed to provide 85 percent protection against monkeypox.
Mike Ryan, director of emergencies at the World Health Organization, also warned Wednesday that outbreaks of diseases such as monkeypox are becoming more frequent due to climate change, according to Reuters.
Because of rapidly changing climatic conditions, he said, animals and humans are changing their foraging behavior, promoting the spread of pathogens that normally spread in animals to humans.
Some experts have said it is unlikely that monkeypox will turn into a pandemic like COVID-19, but global health officials are concerned and are taking precautions to make sure it is identified and prevented from spreading.
Monkeypox spreads through contact. This contact is not necessarily sexual, but several of the cases identified in Europe and North America have spread among men who have sex with men.
Health officials, including the World Health Organization, have warned that it should not be considered a sexually transmitted disease and can spread to anyone.
Meanwhile, Public Health Ontario has recommended that any patients confirmed to have monkeypox should be isolated in a single room with a closed door, if possible, if they are hospitalized. It also recommended that full personal protective equipment be used and that caregivers be careful about shaking soiled clothing and washing their hands carefully.
The Ontario Department of Public Health said all confirmed cases have the virus in West Africa, “which is generally associated with a less serious disease.” (There are two African strains or strains of the virus). The mortality rate is believed to be between three and six percent.
Ontario Department of Health spokesman Bill Campbell said the risk to Ontarians is low. But anyone who has concerns about symptoms should contact the health care profession.
He said the county is considering implementing a public monkeypox reporting mechanism, something it does for COVID-19 cases.
With files from Postmedia wire services