The maritime epidemiologist talks about the smallpox of the monkey, starting with the stigma

The city of Montreal has been labeled the epicenter of the North American monkeypox, with more confirmed cases within the city limits than the rest of Canada and the United States combined.

Many sailors have seen the number of cases rise with concern, not only because of the proximity, but because the city serves as a popular weekend getaway for East Coast residents.

Read more: Quebec now has 132 cases of smallpox, most of them in Montreal

As of Wednesday, there had been no confirmed cases of smallpox in any of the maritime provinces, and officials in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and PEI said they were monitoring the situation in the west.

Quebec health officials said Tuesday that only three cases in the province have required hospitalization, with all three people discharged.

The story continues under the ad

Montreal’s director of public health, Dr. Mylène Drouin, added that most of the city’s 126 cases were in men who had sex with men.

“We currently have an outbreak that really focuses on a specific community,” he said.

Globally, men who have sex with men have been disproportionately involved in the monkeypox outbreak.

In a presentation to the World Health Organization earlier this month, Dr Gianfranco Spiteri of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control detailed how skin-to-skin contact during sexual intercourse had served as the main means of transmission abroad.

The same is suspected in Canada.

The epidemiologist of St. John’s Susanne Gulliver, however, calls for caution around the messages here: she said anyone can catch the monkey’s smallpox, by chance it’s spreading to the LGBTQ2 community.

“It’s very unfortunate that it’s linked to men having sex with men. It’s a very, very slippery and scary slope,” he said.

“By the way, sometimes I just start yelling at the mistakes we made with AIDS in the ’80s,” Gulliver said.

Trend stories

  • Unvaccinated Canadians can board planes and trains while federals pause COVID-19 mandate

  • Freeland says Canada’s economic reputation was in jeopardy, which led to the Emergency Act

Read more: Reports of monkeypox in semen call for a WHO investigation

The story continues under the ad

You can get monkeypox during sex, he said, but with this kind of close contact you can also spread COVID-19 or any other communicable disease that the other person has.

Gulliver said that not only is the stigma inherent here worrisome, but it can also cause many people to have a false sense of security when they are potentially exposed.

“People are thinking, ‘As long as I’m out of Tinder, I’ll be fine,'” he said.

“But if that were the case, then we wouldn’t be vaccinating all of their contacts, their families.”

A variation of the smallpox vaccine is proving effective against monkeypox, as both come from the orthopox virus family.

In Montreal, the deployment of doses has been extended to sex workers and men who visit Montreal and plan to have sex with other men during their visit.

“It’s an additional measure we’re putting in place to control the outbreak,” Drouin said.

It’s a little harder for Atlantic Canadians to get a chance, with at least one province in the region ruling out handing out doses to potentially vulnerable travelers heading to Montreal.

“New Brunswick is not providing the smallpox vaccine at this time as a precautionary measure for smallpox exposure,” New Brunswick Health Department spokeswoman Michelle Guenard wrote in a statement to Global News.

The story continues under the ad

“We are focusing on risk awareness and preventive health measures for New Brunswick residents as we work with other provinces toward a vaccination strategy.”

Read more: Monkeypox in Canada and how NS and NB health officials react

Nova Scotia’s health minister told Global News that they would review information from that province, but did not return the deadline.

Your best bet if you’re worried?

“The same thing we’ve been doing for two years, in three,” Gulliver said.

Detailed New Brunswick public health measures include:

  • Stay home when you are sick or have sore skin
  • Practice respiratory etiquette, including covering up coughing and sneezing and wearing a mask
  • Hand hygiene
  • Practice safe sex
  • Avoid close physical contact, including sexual contact, with a person who is suspected or confirmed to have smallpox.

2:37 WHO investigates reports of monkeypox traces found in semen WHO investigates reports of monkeypox traces found in semen

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *