THE Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) announced on Thursday that it is working with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and public health authorities in the province of Quebec to investigate potential exposure and contacts of a case of monkeypox recently identified in the United States. The U.S. citizen had recently travelled to Canada from the U.S. The individual travelled by private transportation and may have been infected before or during his visit to Montreal, Quebec.
As part of the ongoing investigation, health partners have identified individuals in Canada who have signs and symptoms which could be consistent with monkeypox infection. The National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) is undertaking additional testing to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of monkeypox for these individuals. The Province of Quebec was notified on Thursday night that two samples received by the NML have tested positive for monkeypox. These are the first two cases confirmed in Canada.
Monkeypox is a zoonotic infectious disease found in parts of central and West Africa that result in occasional human infections usually associated with exposure to infected animals or contaminated materials. Limited cases have been identified in other regions in the past, including the United Kingdom, United States, Israel and Singapore, but never before in Canada. For the recent international cases, it is not yet certain how the individuals were exposed to monkeypox virus.
Person to person spread of monkeypox is uncommon. However, when spread does occur between people the mode of transmission is through close contact with an infected individual, such as through direct contact with their body fluids, respiratory droplets, or monkeypox sores, or by sharing clothing, bedding or common items that have been contaminated with the infected person’s fluids or sores. As with many other diseases spread through close contact, people can lower their risk by maintaining physical distance, frequent hand and respiratory hygiene including masking.
(According to BBC, it has not previously been described as a sexually transmitted infection, but it can be passed on by direct contact during sex.)
People should be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox and report any concerns to their health care provider. Signs and symptoms of monkeypox can typically include fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes, and a rash that often appears within a few days after symptoms such as fever develop.
PHAC has alerted public health authorities to work with health care providers to look for patients who have signs or symptoms consistent with monkeypox, regardless of whether they have reported travel or have specific risk factors for monkeypox.
PHAC said that this is an evolving and ongoing investigation, both in Canada and around the world. More information is needed to assess if there are increased health risks to people in Canada. PHAC will continue to provide updates to the public as new information becomes available.