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Health officials suspect 17 monkeypox cases in Montreal area

The virus is transmitted by close contact and droplets – which is why public health is recommending that those infected not only cover their lesions with gloves, but wear masks.
Montreal healh
Dr. Drouin at a press conference updating monkeypox cases in Montreal.

Montreal health officials confirmed 17 cases of monkeypox are under investigation, mainly all in men 30 to 55 years old. Fifteen cases in Montreal, one on the south shore and one on the North Shore.

Montreal Public Health Director Dr. Mylène Drouin confirmed the news on Thursday at a press conference.

“We do not have to panic at the time we are speaking,” said Dr. Drouin. “It’s not something you can acquire when  you’re at the grocery store or on public transportation.” She says it cannot spread through the community in that way and it is not a sexually transmitted disease.

The virus is transmitted by close contact and droplets – which is why public health is recommending that those infected not only cover their lesions with gloves, but wear masks. There is no treatment. There is a reported protection that if you have received the smallpox vaccine, you have some protection, health officials said.

The first cases were declared May 12, from clinics specializing in sexually transmitted diseases – but after a suspected case from the U.S. of a person that was in Montreal was declared May 17, more investigations were done. That person in Boston, is linked to a few cases here in Montreal. The first cases, symptoms developed April 29. All the cases under investigation are doing well health-wise.

Public health diffused an alert to all Montreal-area physicians to declare all suspected cases so public health can understand more the transmission rate.

All cases are isolating. Anyone who lives with the suspected cases, or their sexual partner is infected, are being asked to monitor their symptoms for 21 days and to see a doctor if more develops.

Dr. Drouin was accompanied by Medical Officer in Charge of Health Emergencies and Infectious Diseases Dr. Geneviève Bergeron for the press conference, who said that they are monitoring this very closely as it’s developing.

Some of the cases have reported links to travel in Mexico, Belgium, but they are still investigating all links.

A viral disease usually seen in Africa

Monkeypox is a viral disease usually spread by touching or getting bitten by infected wild animals like rats or squirrels in western and central Africa. The disease is rather rare in Europe and North America. Human-to-human transmission can occur through contact with bodily fluids, skin lesions, internal mucosal surfaces, and respiratory droplets.

The early symptoms of monkeypox include fever, muscle ache, chills and fatigue. In more severe cases, a rash can often develop on the face and genitals, which resembles those seen in chickenpox and smallpox.

Most people recover from the illness within several weeks and does not typically spread easily among people. Still, British health officials say it’s possible if there was extremely close contact with an infected person.

“Suspected cases may present with early flu-like symptoms and progress to lesions that may begin on one side of the body and spread to other parts,” the DPH said.

Monkeypox has not previously been documented to have spread through sex but can be transmitted through close contact with infected people, their clothing or bedsheets. Monkeypox is not known to be a sexually transmitted disease.