Canada’s public health agency has confirmed the first two cases of monkeypox in the country.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is working with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health authorities in Québec to investigate potential exposure and close contact of a case of monkeypox recently identified in the U.S.
The PHAC says the individual travelled by private transportation and may have been infected before visiting Montreal.
“Tonight, the Province of Québec was notified that two samples received by the NML have tested positive for monkeypox. These are the first two cases confirmed in Canada,” PHAC officials said.
“This is an evolving and ongoing investigation, both in Canada and worldwide. 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.”
Montreal health officials confirmed that 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 that way, and it is not a sexually transmitted disease.
The virus is transmitted by close contact and droplets, which is why public health recommends that those infected cover their lesions with gloves and wear masks. There is no treatment. Health officials said there is some protection if you have received the smallpox vaccine.
The first cases were declared on May 12 from clinics specializing in sexually transmitted diseases — but after a suspected case from the U.S. of a person in Montreal was declared on May 17, more investigations were done.
That person in Boston is linked to a few cases in Montreal. 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 about the transmission rate.
All cases are isolating. Anyone who lives with the suspected cases or whose sexual partner is infected is being asked to monitor their symptoms for 21 days and 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.
Many recent suspected cases have been observed in gay and bisexual men, but Dr. Bergeron urged the public to remember that monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection.
“Transmission occurs with prolonged, close contact with infected people,” she said. “Some cases have been linked to travel, but not all. We do not want to stigmatize any segment of the population.”
Some cases have reported links to travel in Mexico and Belgium, but they are still investigating all links.
Monkeypox is a viral disease usually spread by touching or bitten by infected wild animals like rats or squirrels in western and central Africa. The disease is relatively 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 PHAC says 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, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash that often appears within a few days after symptoms such as fever develop.
Most people recover from the illness within several weeks, and do 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.