Montreal Public Health said it is urging health workers to be alert for monkeypox after seeing 17 suspicious cases in the area over the past week.
The head of public health, Dr. Mylene Drouin, said on Thursday, however, that the disease is not extremely contagious and is the mildest of two strains.
The virus is transmitted by “close contact” and respiratory drops and is not a sexually transmitted disease, he said, although until now, those infected in the Montreal area were men who had sex with other men.
Smallpox is not a disease that health officials believe will enter a phase of general community transmission, he said, not infectious enough for it.
“It’s not something you can buy when you do your grocery shopping [shopping] or on public transportation, “he said.
So far in Montreal, “mostly those  The cases are men who have had sex with other men, between the ages of 30 and 55, “Drouin said.
“And the clinical presentation is mainly ulceration of painful oral and genital parts, and with a pre-eruption phase with fever, sweating and headache.”
The head of public health added that “most of our cases are not serious cases.”
These symptoms coincide with known descriptions of monkeypox, a rare disease that can present as fever, headache, and fatigue.
After a few days, patients usually develop a rash that often begins on the face before spreading to other parts of the body. Most patients recover within a few weeks, although it can be life-threatening in some cases.
A distinctive feature of monkeypox, compared to smallpox, is that it causes the lymph nodes to swell, according to the CDC.
Montreal does not yet have laboratory confirmation that the 17 cases are, in fact, monkeypox, but after hearing other outbreaks in Europe and one case in the United States with trips related to Montreal, public health “changed the “course” of his research, Drouin. dit.
The first case was reported in Montreal on May 12, he said, and symptoms of the first infected person began in late April.
There are now 15 suspicious cases in the city, one on the north coast and one on the south shore. Some of them, in turn, are linked to travel with other countries, such as a person from Boston who visited Canada, as well as people who have traveled to Mexico and Belgium.
Drouin said all known local patients are isolated and have been asked to cover their skin lesions with bandages.
The disease can be transmitted by anyone who is in close contact with other people, such as a family member, especially when exposed to skin lesions or things that have affected them.
What is considered “significant contact” are “those in the same household and sexual partners,” Drouin said.
In all 17 local cases, not all significant contacts of infected people were asked to remain isolated, but they were asked to be carefully monitored for 21 days and report any symptoms.
Local doctors have also been asked to be vigilant in the face of suspicious cases.
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There is no treatment available in Canada, Drouin said: people just have to wait and be cured of skin ulcers. However, he said federal authorities are looking at their options.
“It’s painful, but mostly the forms we have right now are mild forms of the disease,” he said.
“And I think as we look at the vaccine, we’re also looking at other treatment options.”
In the United States, he said, there are some treatments for monkeypox that have been approved for sale.
“So that’s something that, at the federal level, they’re going to look at quickly,” he said.
As for whether a vaccine will be offered, this is a decision that will also be made at the provincial and federal levels. The first step is to find out if a vaccine is available, Drouin said.
However, people who received the smallpox vaccine during childhood may also have an impulse to fight smallpox.
“There is a report of protection against the smallpox vaccine,” said Montreal’s director of infectious diseases, Dr. Geneviève Bergeron.
Montreal authorities have not yet analyzed all the evidence around this and do not yet know how many local people have received the smallpox vaccine, he said.
Although this vaccine was spread in previous decades, it has not been used in North America since smallpox was eradicated, which means that it is only likely to be in people who are about 50 years of age or older. In Canada, babies have only been routinely vaccinated against smallpox since 1972.
Dr. Donald Vinh, a Montreal-based infectious disease specialist, said Thursday that previous research shows that the smallpox vaccine provides 85 percent protection against monkeypox.
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The Montreal outbreak is part of a series of outbreaks in different countries.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Public Health in Massachusetts said in a statement that it had confirmed a case of the disease in an adult man “with a recent trip to Canada.”
This comes after five cases were identified in Portugal, seven in the United Kingdom and 23 in Spain.
Health officials are investigating whether the cases in North America are related to outbreaks in Europe.
Smallpox is generally limited to Africa, with the few cases observed in other parts of the world normally linked to travel to this region.
Smallpox was first discovered in 1958 in monkey colonies that were kept for research.
The first human case was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the CDC. There are two strains, one from Central Africa that is more severe and one from West Africa that is less severe.
Montreal public health believes that the tension circulating locally is the least severe, which is also what UK and other European officials have said about its outbreaks.
– With archives of The Canadian Press.