Quebec has confirmed 10 more cases of monkeypox, for a total of 15 cases across the province, the provincial health ministry announced Tuesday.
The province reported the first cases of the virus in Canada last week, after authorities said they were investigating 17 suspected cases.
Health Ministry spokesman Robert Maranda said Quebec is considering ordering vaccines against the disease from the federal government.
Monkeypox, which occurs mainly in West and Central Africa, is a rare viral infection similar to human smallpox, although milder. It was first recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s. The number of cases in West Africa has increased over the past 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 Friday authorities were investigating “a few dozen” possible cases of monkeypox, most of them originating in Quebec.
Dr. Theresa Tam said the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg is also testing samples from British Columbia.
“We don’t really know how much of the spread has occurred in Canada, so this is an active investigation,” Tam said Friday. “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 appears to be circulating in Canada and elsewhere in the Western world.
‘Containable situation’: WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) says it has no evidence that the monkeypox virus has mutated.
On Monday morning, Dr Rosamund Lewis, head of the smallpox secretariat, which is part of the WHO’s emergency programme, told a press conference that mutations tend to be generally weaker with the virus. monkeypox.
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 were not serious, said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s head of emerging diseases and zoonoses and technical lead of COVID-19.
“This is a manageable situation,” she said, particularly in Europe. “But we can’t take our eyes off the ball with what’s happening in Africa, in countries where it’s endemic.”