The Montreal Public Health Authority is investigating 17 suspected cases of monkeypox

Montreal’s top public health official is urging people not to panic as her department investigates 17 suspected cases of monkeypox in the greater Montreal area.

At a press conference Thursday morning, Dr. Mylène Drouin indicated that there are 15 suspected cases on the island of Montreal, one on the South Shore and another north of Laval.

“Most of our cases are not serious,” Drouin said, adding that authorities are still awaiting lab results to confirm if it is indeed monkeypox.

Until now, monkeypox outbreaks have been mostly confined to central and west Africa, but in recent weeks suspected cases have been identified in the US, UK, Portugal and Spain.

Drouin said the first cases in Montreal were reported on May 12 by clinics specializing in sexually transmitted diseases. She said these cases are mostly linked to men between the ages of 30 and 55 who have had sex with other men.

The virus is not a sexually transmitted infection, Drouin said, but one that “is transmitted primarily through close contact and [respiratory] droplets.”

“It’s not something you can acquire when you [do your groceries] or on public transport,” she said.

The virus is known to be spread in a variety of ways – including respiratory droplets, open wounds, contact with bodily fluids or by touching contaminated clothing or bedding.

Compared to a milder form of smallpox, monkeypox is a rare viral disease that usually begins with symptoms such as fever, headache, back pain and fatigue – similar to symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu. But doctors say the most noticeable symptom is a rash or lesions on the skin.

Montreal public health officials do not believe the virus will circulate in the community because it is not highly infectious, Drouin said.

She said all those with suspected cases are in isolation and have been asked to cover their skin lesions with bandages.

Drouin described “significant contact cases” as “those from the same household and sexual partners.” She urged anyone with symptoms to see a doctor.

The news conference came after Quebec’s health ministry said in a statement late Wednesday that it had been notified that a person with a confirmed case of monkeypox had traveled to the province.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health confirmed a single case of monkeypox on Wednesday in a man who had recently traveled to Canada. He did not specify which province the man had traveled to.