112 cases of monkeypox in Canada, all of them among men: public health officer

OTTAWA –

Canada’s chief public health officer said Friday there were 112 cases of monkeypox across Canada and all of those infected were male.

There were 98 cases in Quebec, nine in Ontario, four in Alberta and one in British Columbia, with other suspected cases being investigated, Dr. Theresa Tam told a briefing.

Tam said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that people who may be at high risk of exposure get vaccinated.

But she said a mass vaccination campaign against the virus is not currently necessary.

Tam said the “primary goal” was to ensure that the outbreak does not spread further or become established in Canada. “This means rapidly stopping chains of transmission.”

The disease mainly spreads from close physical contact, including intimate sexual contact, or exposure to scabs, mucus membranes, bodily fluids or even bed linen, Tam said.

Most of the cases are currently among men who said they had had sexual contact with other men, though the virus can spread to anyone who has had close physical contact with an infected person or “contaminated objects” such as blankets, she said.

“I would like to remind everyone that monkeypox is not limited to just one community.”

The public health officer said efforts were being made in provinces with cases to raise awareness among communities who may be at risk of infection.

She advised doctors and other health workers to “remain vigilant” for symptoms of the virus, including a rash, regardless of whether someone has travelled abroad.

Monkeypox is typically found in West and Central Africa, though it has now appeared around the world, including in the United Kingdom.

Tam said genome sequencing suggested that the cases in Canada were related to the worldwide outbreak.

She said all the cases were among men aged 20 to 63 and “the majority report having sexual contact with men.”

She advised people to contact their local public health authorities for advice if they detect a new rash or sores after sexual activity or close personal contact with other people.

Ottawa Public Health confirmed Friday that the virus had reached the capital. In a statement, it said that a case of monkeypox had been verified in a resident but the individual had now recovered. It added that it has followed up with their close contacts.

Quebec, with the most cases in Canada, has already started offering vaccines to people who have come in close contact with infected people.

Monkeypox belongs to the same virus family as smallpox, and vaccines against smallpox have proven effective against monkeypox.

Tam said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization was advising that a single dose of the Imvamune vaccine be offered to “individuals with a high risk exposure” to a probable or confirmed case of monkeypox, or in a setting where transmission may be happening within four days.

She said local health officials were aware of “mini-superspreader events where there was a lot of close contact including sexual contact” adding that they were “working with these establishments.”

The goal was to stop the virus spreading further and because contact tracing is difficult, local health bodies in areas with outbreaks were focusing on contacting these settings to try to stop further transmission.

Tam said though most contact was through close physical contact, health authorities were also examining “possible transmission through the respiratory route” or through droplets.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June, 10, 2022.

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