At this point, the Northwestern Health Unit says the risk of residents in the area contracting smallpox, a strain of smallpox that appears to be spreading internationally, is likely to be low, but the health unit continues to monitor the area for any suspected cases. .
The World Health Organization says monkeypox is a disease transmitted from animals to humans and is from the same family of viruses that cause smallpox. While smallpox was eradicated in 1980, monkeypox continued to spread as an endemic epidemic of rodents and small animals in Central and West Africa.
But now, worldwide, there are an estimated 550 cases in 30 countries where the virus is usually not found such as Canada, Europe, Australia, Spain and the United States, with a mortality rate of 1 to 10 percent.
“Monkeypox is a viral disease similar to smallpox but is less serious,” explains Medical Officer of Health at the Northwest Health Unit, Dr. Kate Young-Hoon.
“There may have been some spread that could have occurred outside the endemic countries that is now being detected,” Young-hoon adds. “At this point, there are no cases that we know of in our area. The risks are likely to be low at this point, but they are being closely monitored by public health and our health sector.”
On June 3, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, announced that Canada now has 77 confirmed cases of monkeypox, of which 71 are in Quebec, five in Ontario and one in Alberta. The first two cases of monkeypox in Canada were confirmed on May 19 in Quebec.
Public Health Canada says it continues to monitor case numbers to see if there are any increased health risks for Canadians.
Detection of the virus can be confirmed with a PCR test, which is the same method used to confirm COVID-19. Although the World Health Organization said on May 30 that the new threat was ‘unlikely’ to morph into any form of a global pandemic similar to the ongoing pandemic caused by COVID-19.
Young-hoon says symptoms of monkeypox typically include fever, sore throat or cough, swollen lymph nodes, headache, extremity pain and fatigue, as well as a rash with blisters similar to those caused by smallpox. The World Health Organization says the period from infection to onset of symptoms can range from five to 21 days.
The World Health Organization reports that there are two distinct monkeypox strains, with the Congo Basin strain known to spread more easily and cause more severe symptoms than the West African strain of the virus. Both strains of the virus usually resolve within two to four weeks.
The Infection Prevention and Control Agency of Canada says that person-to-person transmission of the virus has usually been very limited, but can occur through direct contact, bodily fluids and sexual activity.
“It is a viral disease that is spread mostly through close and direct contact,” explains Young-hoon. It can be spread through body fluids. Very close contact including intimate and sexual contact. It can also be spread through contaminated items such as clothing and bedding.”
The IPCC says the vast majority of reported cases have no established travel links to an endemic area, but have developed symptoms through primary care or sexual health services.
Young Hoon adds that if you think you may have been exposed to the virus or are experiencing similar symptoms, you should seek medical attention for a review.
Young-hoon explains that county guidelines state that close contacts of a possible or confirmed case of monkeypox can receive the smallpox vaccine, which may help protect you from infection. The smallpox vaccine was given regularly in young adults until the virus was largely eradicated 40 years ago.