REGINA – Saskatchewan’s health care agency is warning there is an elevated risk of contracting monkeypox through anonymous sexual contact, and is expanding eligibility for the vaccine to adults 18 and older who are close contacts or considered who are at increased risk of exposure.
The medical director of health told reporters during a press conference on Saturday that monkeypox cases in the province remain low; so far only three have been confirmed.
But Dr. Saqib Shahab says if people meet the risk criteria and have concerns, they should call the province’s 811 health line for advice on testing, as well as how to get a pre-exposure vaccine. .
The Saskatchewan Health Authority issued a press release saying the warning about contracting monkeypox through anonymous sexual contact is due to recent known cases.
Information reported to public health is added, related to travel within and outside the province, which has caused the alert.
Shahab says Saskatchewan wants to do everything it can to prevent a spike in cases.
“I think with travel interactions across Canada over the summer, I think this risk would change for us in Saskatchewan and that’s why we’re really opening up the vaccine now, not just for post-exposure prophylaxis, but also for pre-exposure as well, for the specific group that we have identified,” Shahab said at the news conference.
“Obviously we don’t want excessive testing, but in the right context, I think it’s important to look for evidence, for exactly the reason that we don’t want to lose cases.”
So far, he said there have been no cases in Saskatchewan where a history of exposure has not been identified. Additional doses of vaccine have been ordered now that the province has expanded eligibility, she noted.
Monkeypox, which comes from the same family of viruses that causes smallpox, has been endemic in parts of central and western Africa for decades and was not known to trigger large outbreaks beyond the continent as of May.
It causes fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and lethargy, followed by the development of a rash on the person’s body. It is spread through close personal contact, often skin-to-skin, contact with bodily fluids or injuries from a sick person with the disease, or exposure to contaminated objects such as bedding or clothing.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says the majority of domestic cases are among men who reported intimate sexual contact with other men. Having multiple sexual partners can increase your overall risk, but the agency says the risk of exposure isn’t unique to any one group or setting.
The number of Canadian monkeypox cases topped 1,000 this week, though there are early signs the virus may now be spreading at a slower rate.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 13, 2022.
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