With 745 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Canada, public health director Dr. Theresa Tam says an “urgent” response is required to tackle the outbreak and she is encouraging those most at risk to get vaccinated.
“Our understanding of this virus is still evolving, and this statement makes it clear that the situation requires an urgent global response,” Tam said Wednesday, citing the World Health Organization’s recent declaration of monkeypox as an emergency. of public health of international interest.
As of Wednesday, according to PHAC, there are 346 reported cases in Quebec, 326 cases in Ontario, 58 cases in British Columbia, 12 cases in Alberta, two cases in Saskatchewan and one case in Yukon.
“What we need right now is for those in the highest risk groups, including gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men, to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others,” Tam said.
The viral illness, which often presents as a viral infection with a rash, is spread through close personal contact with those who have a symptomatic case. This can happen in several ways:
- Contact with lesions or crusts found on the skin or mucosal surfaces such as the eyes, mouth, genitals, and anus;
- Contact with bodily fluids of an infected person, such as blood, saliva, and semen; Y
- Contact with contaminated objects or shared personal items such as bedding, towels, toothbrushes, and utensils.
PHAC says the virus can also spread through respiratory particles from talking, breathing, coughing or sneezing during close contact, but scientists are still gathering information on that mode of transmission.
While in Canada monkeypox is spreading predominantly among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, with 99 percent of cases reported to date in people who identify as male and the majority reported same-sex sexual contact, health officials have tried to emphasize that anyone can become infected with and spread the virus.
To date, less than one percent of confirmed cases in Canada were women or people under the age of 20, Tam said, adding that while PHAC is aware of international cases involving women and children, they also represent the one percent of all. known cases.
Tam said Wednesday that PHAC is working with national and international health authorities to try to stop chains of transmission “to prevent the establishment of monkeypox in Canada,” and recommends practicing safer sex, having fewer sexual partners and staying at home when sick. as ways to reduce the risk of becoming infected.
He said federal officials are “closely monitoring emerging data,” promising that the public health response will evolve as they learn more.
While the federal government has made efforts to provide funding to community groups to raise awareness and fight stigma around the disease, a more comprehensive national response to the emerging public health problem is called for.
“Our leaders really need to come together and start strategizing so that we can limit the spread of this. We don’t want it to get into schools, day care centers, things like that. Now is the time, like we did early in COVID — to really cut this in the bud,” ER doctor Dr. Kashif Pirzada said in an interview on CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
Some local public health authorities across the country have begun offering vaccinations to those deemed at risk. The opportunity offered is Imvamune, a smallpox vaccine that the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has recommended as an effective form of protection.
So far, the federal government has distributed more than 70,000 doses of the vaccine to provinces and territories, of which approximately 27,000 doses have been administered.
When asked where Canada’s current dose supply is, Tam said that while the vaccine is in limited supply globally, the stockpile is sufficient for now and the federal government is looking to secure more.
“I think we’re good for now, and of course we’re trying to estimate the population size and possible vaccine coverage required,” Tam said. “We’re lucky because we had already been stockpiling the vaccine for another purpose, and that’s how we were able to get by.”
To date, more than 18,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported worldwide in 78 countries, according to the World Health Organization. As Reuters reported on Wednesday, scientists advising the WHO have said the window to stop the spread of the virus is closing. With new cases doubling every two weeks, there is concern that it could be several months before the current outbreak reaches its peak.
More to come…