Monkeypox has Canadian researchers scrambling.  Why, and how common is it?  - patriot |

Monkeypox has Canadian researchers scrambling. Why, and how common is it? – patriot |

Recent cases of monkeypox have researchers in Canada and elsewhere in the world trying to figure out the extent of the virus.

Monkeypox is rarely found outside of Africa, but potential cases in Europe and North America, including 17 in Montreal, have caught the attention of health officials.

How contagious can it be, and why is it called monkeypox in the first place? Here’s what we know so far.

A spokesperson for Public Health Canada (PHAC) told Global News that monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus that causes disease, usually transmitted to humans from animals.

The story continues below the ad

Human-to-human transmission can occur through close contact with another person, through body fluids, lesions on the skin such as blisters, and/or respiratory droplets.

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more:

Health officials said it was a “strong possibility” of 17 cases of monkeypox in the Montreal area

After one to three days of fever, she added, monkeypox patients can develop a facial rash that then spreads to other parts of the body in the form of lesions that later fall off.

The incubation period for monkeypox is usually seven to 14 days, but can range from five to 21 days. There is no cure for the virus, but most people recover from monkeypox infection within a few weeks.

Why is it called monkeypox?

Monkeypox was first found in monkeys in 1958, hence the name, although rodents are now considered the most common animal host.

The story continues below the ad

“People get it in endemic countries in Africa usually through contact with rodents,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist with the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Organization.

“It’s not transmissible from human to human, so often when there’s a new outbreak, it’s associated with exposure to rodents.”

This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature oval-shaped monkeypox viruses, left, and immature spherical virions, right, obtained from a human skin sample associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak.

Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/Center for Disease Control via AP

For example, Rasmussen cited the 2003 outbreak of monkeypox in the United States in which 47 people in six states had confirmed or probable cases.

They caught the virus from domestic prairie dogs that were sheltered near small mammals imported from Ghana.

However, with the monkeypox cases we see now, there does not appear to be a connection to the rodents, as multiple cases have been reported in Europe and North America, Rasmussen said.

The story continues below the ad

This suggests that these cases are mainly the result of undetected transmission chains. They are presumably caused by travel, but many of these cases have no travel history.”

“It’s going to be really important for epidemiological investigations to try to understand what these different patients are with each other in terms of their links, what kind of interactions they’ve had with each other, their travel history so we can get a better understanding of how this is spreading.”

How common is monkeypox?

In Africa, where the disease is common, nearly 1 in 10 people die after contracting monkeypox.

The World Health Organization estimates that there are thousands of monkeypox infections in about a dozen African countries each year. Most of them are in Congo, which reports about 6,000 cases per year, and Nigeria, with about 3,000 cases per year.

The story continues below the ad

However, recent cases of monkeypox around the world are of concern, including in Canada.

“Most cases are mild, although there are clearly some more serious cases that have been identified, but overall, this will be a milder disease,” said Dr. Isaac Bogosh, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital.

“It is also fair to say that we don’t know much about this. This is categorized as a neglected tropical infection in that it mostly affects low-income countries, and there is, unfortunately, not a lot of research on infections like this.”

Read more:

Cases of monkeypox now suspected in the UK, Spain and Portugal – here’s what you need to know

No confirmed cases of monkeypox were reported to the primary health care center as of Thursday morning, the agency told Global News. However, there are 17 suspected cases of the virus under investigation in Montreal.

The United States confirmed its first case on Wednesday, in a man who recently traveled to Canada, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said in a statement.

It is the first time that monkeypox has spread among people who have not traveled to Africa. In Europe, infections have been reported in Britain, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

“It seems to be mostly about men having sex with the men’s community,” said Dr. Safa Barakati, a medical microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at McGill University who treats suspected monkeypox cases.

The story continues below the ad

“Essentially when you have a patient with this epidemiological link … it raises your suspicions.”

Read more:

Toronto Public Health “is not aware” of any local cases of monkeypox

Barakati said patients do not need to be hospitalized, but need to be isolated.

“They have to be in isolation until all the lesions have healed, which means they are all scaly and the crust has fallen off,” she said.

How does monkeypox spread, and how common is it?

Health officials in Spain are investigating after eight men began showing symptoms of the viral infection. These cases have not yet been officially confirmed, and a spokesperson for the Regional Health Ministry in Madrid said the National Microbiology Center is working to establish a final diagnosis.

The story continues below the ad

The United Kingdom announced on Monday that it had discovered four more cases of monkeypox, bringing the total number of infections in the country to seven. The first case was discovered in the UK on 4 May.

In Portugal, five cases of monkeypox were found, with another 15 people tested. National authorities said all those infected were in stable condition, and that all 20 cases were among men living in Lisbon and the Tagus Valley.

The UK’s Health Security Agency said not all of its cases are linked, suggesting there may be multiple chains of transmission.

Read more:

US confirms monkeypox case in man who recently traveled to Canada

The UK’s Health Security Agency also highlighted that recent cases were mostly among men who self-identified as gay, bisexual or MSM, and advised these groups to raise awareness.

The infection was caught in Portugal in a sexual health clinic, where the men sought help from lesions on their genitals.

“The MSM community has been historically and incredibly stigmatized for infection with the virus, so I want to be very careful to say that this link is not yet over,” Rasmussen said.

“Everyone should keep in mind how monkeypox can be transmitted, that is through shared air, through aerosols, through direct or indirect contact, but through prolonged physical proximity with an infected person.”

The story continues below the ad

Rasmussen added that while there are multiple ways monkeypox is spread between humans, it takes fairly long contact with another person to get sick.

Do vaccines work against monkeypox?

Monkeypox puts virologists on alert because it is a member of the smallpox family, although it causes less serious disease.

Smallpox was eradicated by vaccination in 1980, and the vaccine has since been phased out.

It also protects against monkeypox, said Anne Remoen, an epidemiology professor at UCLA, and so ending vaccination campaigns has led to a jump in monkeypox cases in areas where the disease is endemic.

She said urgent investigations into new cases were important because they “could indicate a new or altered way of spreading the virus, but all of this has not been identified.”

The story continues below the ad

A spokesperson for the UK’s Health Security Agency said authorities in Great Britain have started providing the smallpox vaccine to some health care workers and others who may have been exposed to monkeypox.

According to the World Health Organization, the vaccines that have been used to eradicate smallpox are up to 85 percent effective against monkeypox.

Some countries have large stocks of smallpox vaccine as part of pandemic preparedness, including the United States.

The Nordic Bavarian pharmaceutical company, based in Denmark, said Thursday it had secured a contract with an undisclosed European country to supply it with a smallpox vaccine in response to an outbreak of monkeypox.

How can Canadians stay safe from monkeypox?

A spokesperson said PHAC is closely monitoring the series of monkeypox cases being reported around the world.

The story continues below the ad

“PHAC currently collaborates closely with international partners including the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the UK’s Health Security Agency,” they said.

“PHAC has alerted provincial and territorial public health authorities and laboratory partners across Canada to alert and investigate any potential cases. As the situation evolves, we will continue to keep Canadians informed.”

In the era of COVID-19, Canadians can be affected when they see outbreaks of other viruses in the world, but Rasmussen said monkeypox is “very rare” compared to the coronavirus.

“First of all, take as many precautions as possible to avoid contracting the ubiquitous virus now, and this is SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID,” she said, adding that preventive measures such as concealment and proper ventilation have been in place for COVID-19. It can help reduce the spread of monkeypox.

“I’m not willing to predict that this wouldn’t be a bigger problem than it is now, because this is still a worrying situation, but I would be very surprised if we were in the face of a monkeypox pandemic.”

–With files from Jimmy Moracher, Sean Boynton, Catherine Money, Reuters and The Associated Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

2022-05-19 18:13:41

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *