Quebec health officials are investigating more than a dozen suspected monkeypox cases in Canada, after health officials in the United States and Europe confirmed a rise in cases of the rare infectious disease — indicating the potential for a wider outbreak of the disease globally.
Radio Canada On Wednesday, it reported that Montreal public health officials are investigating at least 13 cases reported by doctors in the city, following diagnoses made at three clinics that specialize in sexually transmitted diseases and blood. Laboratory confirmation of the cases is underway and it is expected to be announced in the coming days.
The United States confirmed the first case of monkeypox in a man who recently traveled to Canada, after European health officials confirmed more than two dozen cases of the rare infectious disease this week, indicating the potential for a wider outbreak globally.
A man in the United States traveled to Canada
Massachusetts Department of Public Health One case of monkeypox infection confirmed on Wednesday was in an adult man who had been in Canada and had returned to the state — but he did not specifically say which province the man had traveled to. STAT News It reported Wednesday that the man had traveled to Quebec.
Public Health Canada (PHAC) said in a statement to CBC News Wednesday that no cases of monkeypox have been reported to the agency so far.
“PHAC is aware of the current situation regarding the reporting of monkeypox cases in Europe and is closely monitoring. No case has been reported to a PHC at this time,” a PHAC spokesperson said in an email.
“The Primary Health Care Center (PHAC) has alerted provincial and territorial public health authorities and laboratory partners across Canada to be on alert and investigate any potential cases. As the situation evolves, we will continue to keep Canadians informed.”
The agency said it was “in close cooperation” with international partners including the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Britain’s Health Security Agency in the investigation.
Britain reported its first case of monkeypox on May 7 and has found a total of nine cases since then Portuguese health officials have confirmed five cases Wednesday, Spain is investigating more than 20 possible infections.
“This, again, highlights the danger of viruses like this,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist and technical lead on COVID-19 and emerging diseases with the World Health Organization, said during a press conference this week.
“We really need to better understand the extent of monkeypox in endemic countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, the Central African Republic and others to understand how widespread it is and the risks it poses to the people who live there – as well as the risk of export.”
UK cases may indicate community transmission
WHO officials said this week that it is unusual to see monkeypox in Europe and North America, but that there are thousands of cases annually across West and Central Africa.
The first known case in the UK has been linked to travel in Nigeria, according to the UK’s Health Security Agency. But the latest infections there, both of which were reported on Wednesday, have not been linked to travel or other previously confirmed cases.
“So it is possible that they contracted the infection through community transmission,” The agency said.
The spread of cases in Europe and North America was surprising compared to previous outbreaks of monkeypox, said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist and researcher with the Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Organization (VIDO) of the University of Saskatchewan.
“It appears to be spreading, at least from the information we have so far, through human contact,” she told CBC News.
“Which means that either it is a more transmissible type of monkeypox than any we’ve seen before in humans, or there are behaviors associated with increased transmission.”
The possibility of transmission of infection through sexual contact
UKHSA said four of the cases detected in Britain identified themselves as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men, and urged gay and bisexual men to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions. And to communicate immediately with a sexual person. hygienic service.
The virus is known to spread through surface transmission or close contact but has not been previously described as a sexually transmitted infection – although it can be transmitted through direct contact during sex.
“We didn’t think Ebola was sexually transmitted and of course it was found in semen. Same with Zika virus,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician at Toronto General Hospital.
“The question is, is this sexually transmitted? The answer is unknown. But of course we know that it is transmitted by people in close proximity to each other. So it is not surprising that it is amplified between people’s sexual networks.”
Monkeypox was first identified in the 1950s when two outbreaks occurred in colonies of monkeys used for research purposes, and the first human case was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The disease is often likened to a milder form of smallpox, a disease that has been universally eradicated through widespread vaccination against the smallpox virus.
effective smallpox vaccine
The smallpox vaccine is largely effective against monkeypox, too, but routine immunization programs ended in Canada in the early 1970s—leaving Canadians under 50 vulnerable to infection.
“There are certainly generations of people who have not received the smallpox vaccine and would not have any protection against monkeypox infection if they were exposed to it,” Bogoch said.
Symptoms of monkeypox infection can include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and fatigue, along with lesions all over the body.
There is no proven treatment, and the infection can be fatal to up to 1 in 10 people who become infected, depending on the strain. A vaccine developed against smallpox has been approved against monkeypox, and many antivirals also appear to be somewhat effective.
“It is possible that although supplies of this vaccine are somewhat limited from country to country, a circular vaccination strategy could be used to prevent people who have been exposed,” Rasmussen said.
“There is also medication that can also be used to treat smallpox virus infection. So it’s not like we don’t have any tools at all to contain this outbreak.”