Canada investigating 'a few dozen' suspected monkeypox cases: Tam |  CBC News

Canada investigating ‘a few dozen’ suspected monkeypox cases: Tam | CBC News

Canada’s top public health official said Friday that provincial health authorities are investigating “a few dozen” possible cases of monkeypox — and most samples under review are from Quebec, where two cases have already been confirmed this week.

Dr Theresa Tam told reporters at Parliament House that the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg is running tests on samples from Quebec and British Columbia, and it is possible that some of these suspected cases may be confirmed as monkeypox in the coming hours.

“We don’t really know to what extent the spread has occurred in Canada. So, this is an active investigation,” Tam said. “What we do know is that many of these individuals are not associated with travel to Africa, where the disease is seen naturally.”

The overall risk to the population is “low” at this point, Tam said, but researchers are now working to determine why monkeypox — a disease usually confined to central and western Africa — is so common here in Canada and elsewhere in the Western world.

“This is unusual,” Tam said. “It’s unusual for the world to see so many cases reported in different countries outside of Africa. So I think we’ll tell people as soon as we have more information.”

Monkeypox is a zoonotic viral disease that occurs primarily in tropical rainforest regions. Historically, most cases were reported in the Congo Basin.

There are two main strains or “strains” of monkeypox: the Congo strain, which is more severe — with a mortality rate of up to 10 percent — and the West African strain, which has a mortality rate of about one percent.

Symptoms can include fever, severe headache, swollen lymph nodes, back pain, muscle aches, and lack of energy. Affected people can also develop rashes and lesions.

Monkeypox transmission can result from close contact with “respiratory secretions,” skin lesions of an infected person, or recently contaminated objects.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), transmission by respiratory particles typically requires “face-to-face contact” – meaning that health workers, family members and other people in contact with active cases are at greater risk than the general public.

The World Health Organization said in a statement it was helping countries improve their responses to the outbreak.

“WHO is working with affected countries and others to expand disease surveillance to find and support people who may be affected, and to provide guidance on how to manage the disease,” the organization said.

“Monkeypox spreads differently from COVID-19. The World Health Organization encourages people to stay informed from reliable sources, such as national health authorities, about the extent of the outbreak in their communities (if any), symptoms and prevention.”

The organization also stressed the need to avoid stigmatizing anyone because of the virus.

“Stigmatizing groups of people for disease is totally unacceptable. It can be a barrier to ending an outbreak because it can prevent people from seeking care, and lead to undetected spread.”

Dr Howard Ngo, Canada’s deputy chief of public health, said smallpox and monkeypox belong to the same “family” of viruses. As a result, the smallpox vaccine has proven effective against the “cousin” of monkeypox in the past.

But the smallpox vaccine has not been circulated in Canada for decades because smallpox was eradicated here in the late 1940s. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared it to be globally eliminated in 1979.

This means that younger people may be more likely to get monkeypox because the smallpox injection was not part of the childhood immunization schedule.

“We are all susceptible, and to be completely honest, the good practices we’ve learned with COVID-19 serve us well against a whole host of diseases, including this one,” Ngo said.

Watch | Montreal residents don’t have to panic about monkeypox: Public health:

Montreal residents ‘don’t have to panic’ about monkeypox: Public health

Dr. Mylene Drouin, Montreal’s director of public health, said there are 17 suspected cases in the area, but they are not highly contagious.

Tam said Canada has an unspecified number of some doses of the smallpox vaccine on hand. She said she could not say how many were available due to “security” concerns.

Smallpox vaccine doses have been carefully guarded in Canada due to ongoing concerns about the accidental release of the virus and the risk of it being used for nefarious purposes such as terrorism.

Tam said that after contacting federal authorities, Quebec is considering deploying those shots to some areas of the province where cases have been reported.

Unlike influenza or COVID-19, monkeypox has a long incubation period. The time from infection to symptoms is usually seven to 14 days but can range from five to 21 days. This means that the vaccines can be effectively used on people who are likely to contract monkeypox after they have been in close contact with an active case, Tam said.

Dr. Michael Lipman, director of the J.D. MacLean Center for Tropical Diseases at McGill University, said the outbreak of monkeypox is “a prime example of how human encroachment is expanding the habitats of previously isolated animals, leading to transmission of animal infections to humans.”

“The resurgence of travel in large quantities and the close interactions of large numbers of people has once again allowed for an astonishingly rapid spread around the world,” Lipman said.

2022-05-20 17:57:37

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