Information on monkeypox is in the works for clinicians and NB citizens, health official says
New Brunswick has no confirmed cases of monkeypox and no new suspected cases, but Public Health is gathering resources for clinicians and working on a public awareness campaign.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, says the province is developing a document for clinicians to get the right information.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is working on something similar, she said, “looking at the evidence and how is monkeypox different right now than what we would have seen in the past in terms of spread in different countries, prevention messages and also detection and testing.”
Monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus that causes a disease with symptoms similar to but less severe than smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980.
The virus has been identified in more than 50 new countries outside of countries in Africa where it is endemic.
A total of 375 cases have now been confirmed in Canada, mostly in Quebec and Ontario, according to the federal government’s website. But officials expect that number to rise.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said last month that the Canadian cases were males between the ages of 20 and 63, and the majority of them had had sexual contact with women. ‘other men, but she pointed out that the infection can spread to anyone who is exposed through close contact with an infected person or contaminated objects.
The World Health Organization has said “sustained transmission” of monkeypox around the world could see the virus begin to move into high-risk groups, such as pregnant women, immunocompromised people and children.
The New Brunswick Medical Society welcomes all the resources the province has to offer, said president Dr. Mark MacMillan.
“It’s important to be updated by the experts,” he said.
“This particular infection is not that common in Canada. So a lot of clinicians probably haven’t seen it. They probably heard about it from the media, but they probably never saw a case in person.
“So it’s important to be able to know where the resources are … so that we can investigate cases further if we suspect we have one.”
MacMillan expects the material to cover some of the common symptoms, recommendations when a clinician suspects a case and steps to take for testing.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, monkeypox is usually a mild illness and most people recover on their own after a few weeks. But some people can become very sick and even die.
Symptoms usually develop five to 21 days after being exposed to the virus and occur in two stages.
During stage 1, symptoms may include:
- Swollen lymph nodes.
- Muscle pain.
- Articular pain.
- Back ache.
In stage 2, a rash develops, usually one to three days after the fever. The rash often starts on the face or extremities, but can affect other parts of the body, such as the hands, feet, mouth, and genitals.
The rash usually lasts 14 to 28 days and progresses from flat reddened areas, to raised bumps, to fluid-filled and then pus-filled lesions, before forming scabs that fall off.
According to the website, people can be contagious from the onset of symptoms until the skin has healed.
Although clinicians in New Brunswick are “always worried” when a new infection is identified, “knowing that our numbers in Canada are relatively low is reassuring,” MacMillan said.
Monkeypox is “nowhere near as transmissible or virulent as SARS-CoV-2, which is a virus for COVID 19”, he added.
Exactly how the virus spreads is not completely known at this time, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
But it can be passed from person to person through contact with an infected person: broken skin, blood, body fluids or mucous surfaces, such as the eyes, mouth, throat and rectum, or contact with contaminated bedding, sheets, clothing or other items. .
It can also be transmitted through sexual contact, providing care, or living in the same household as an infected person.
“It is believed that respiratory droplets can transmit monkeypox virus, but this is not well understood at this time,” the federal website states.
The virus can also be transmitted during pregnancy to the fetus through the placenta.
Focus on prevention
New Brunswick Public Health is developing prevention and risk messages, and its campaign will include social media efforts.
People should avoid skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact, including sexual contact, with anyone with symptoms of monkeypox or a known case.
They should also wash their hands frequently, regularly wash objects and surfaces they touch, and avoid sharing personal items, Russell said.
Anyone with symptoms of monkeypox should be evaluated by a health care provider, she said.
Russell said she had no updates on the province’s plan for monkeypox vaccines.
She previously confirmed that New Brunswick would request doses from the federal government, but did not specify how many or who would get them.
Alberta is offering a single dose of the vaccine to close contacts of known cases. This includes sexual partners, people who share a household, and healthcare workers who have provided care without the appropriate personal protective equipment.
Earlier this week, Hamilton held a pop-up monkeypox vaccination clinic focused on the LGBTQ community.
The city said any transgender, gay or bisexual man 18 years of age or older is eligible as long as he:
- Are a contact of someone who has recently tested positive for monkeypox.
- Have had two or more sexual partners in the last three weeks or intend to have one.
- Have been diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis infection within the past two months.
- Having frequented, worked, or volunteered at bathhouses, sex clubs, and other places of sexual contact in the past three weeks.
- Have had anonymous or casual sex in the last three weeks.
The vaccine is ideally given within four days of exposure to the virus to prevent disease. But it can be given within two weeks to reduce symptoms.