Confirmed monkeypox cases in Quebec climb to 15

Quebec has confirmed 10 more cases of monkeypox, for a total of 15 cases across the province, the provincial Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

The province last week reported the first cases of the virus in Canada, after authorities there said they were investigating 17 suspected cases. 

Health Ministry spokesman Robert Maranda says Quebec is considering ordering vaccines against the disease from the federal government.

Monkeypox, which mostly occurs in west and central Africa, is a rare viral infection similar to human smallpox, though milder. It was first recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s. The number of cases in West Africa has increased in the last decade. 

Nearly 20 countries where monkeypox is not endemic have reported recent outbreaks of the viral disease, with more than 230 confirmed or suspected infections mostly in Europe.

Canada’s chief public health officer, said on Friday authorities are investigating “a couple dozen” possible cases of monkeypox, with most being from Quebec.

Dr. Theresa Tam said the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg is also running tests on samples from B.C. 

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

Tam said the overall risk to the population is “low” at this point but researchers are working now to determine why monkeypox seems to be circulating in Canada and elsewhere in the Western world.

‘Containable situation’: WHO 

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it doesn’t have evidence that the monkeypox virus has mutated. 

On Monday morning, Dr. Rosamund Lewis, head of the smallpox secretariat, which is part of the WHO Emergencies Program, said in a news briefing that mutations tend to be typically lower with the monkeypox virus.

She says genome sequencing of cases will help inform understanding of the current outbreak.

Most of the more than 100 suspected and confirmed cases in a recent outbreak in Europe and North America have not been severe, said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonoses lead, and technical lead on COVID-19.

“This is a containable situation,” she said, particularly in Europe. “But we can’t take our eye off the ball with what’s happening in Africa, in countries where it’s endemic.”

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