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

Canada’s chief public health officer said Friday that provincial health officials are investigating “a few dozen” possible cases of monkeypox – and most of the samples examined are from Quebec, where two cases have already been confirmed this week. .

Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill, Dr. Theresa Tam said the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg was testing samples from Quebec and British Columbia, and it’s possible some of these suspected cases to be confirmed as monkeypox within the next few hours.

“We don’t really know how much of the spread has occurred in Canada, so this is an active investigation,” Tam said. “What we do know is that few of these people 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 now working to determine why monkeypox – a disease usually confined to central and west Africa – appears to be circulating here in Canada. and elsewhere in the Western world.

“It’s 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 let people know as soon as we have more information.”

Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease that occurs mainly in tropical rainforest areas. Historically, most cases have been reported in the Congo Basin.

There are two main strains or “clades” of monkeypox: the Congo strain, which is more severe – with up to 10% mortality – and the West African strain, which has a mortality rate of around 1%.

Symptoms may include fever, severe headache, swollen lymph nodes, back pain, muscle aches and lack of energy. Infected people may also develop a rash and lesions.

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

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), respiratory particle transmission usually requires “prolonged face-to-face contact” – meaning that health care workers, family members and other close contacts of active cases are more at risk than the general public.

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

But the smallpox vaccine hasn’t been in circulation in Canada for decades because smallpox was eradicated here in the late 1940s. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared it globally eradicated in 1979.

This means young people may be more susceptible to monkeypox because the smallpox vaccine was not part of their childhood immunization schedule.

“We are all susceptible and to be completely honest, the good practices we have learned with COVID-19 are very useful to us against a whole range of diseases, including this one,” Njoo said.

WATCH | Montrealers “don’t have to panic” about monkeypox: public health:

Montrealers ‘don’t have to panic’ over monkey pox: public health

Dr. Mylène Drouin, director of public health for Montreal, said there were 17 suspected cases in the region, but they are not very contagious.

Tam said Canada has an undetermined number of some smallpox vaccine doses. She said she couldn’t say how many are available due to “security” concerns.

Smallpox vaccine doses have been carefully guarded in Canada due to ongoing fears of an accidental release of the virus and the risk that it could be used for nefarious purposes such as terrorism.

Tam said that after communicating with federal authorities, Quebec is considering deploying these shots in certain areas of the province where cases have been reported.

Unlike the flu or COVID-19, monkeypox has a long incubation period. The time between infection and symptoms is usually seven to 14 days, but can range from five to 21 days. This means the vaccines can be used effectively on people at risk of developing monkeypox after coming into close contact with an active case, Tam said.

Dr Michael Libman, director of the JD MacLean Center for Tropical Diseases at McGill University, said the spread of monkeypox is a “great example of how increasing human encroachment on animal habitats, that had been previously isolated, leads to the transmission of animal-to-human infections.”

“The return of high-volume travel and close interactions of large numbers of people has once again allowed for astonishing rapid spread across the globe,” Libman said.