British Columbia’s first case of monkeypox has been detected in a Vancouver patient.
The BC Centre for Disease Control confirmed the infection through laboratory testing, it said Monday, and is awaiting further confirmation from the National Microbiology Laboratory.
Vancouver Coastal Health is conducting a public health follow-up, but the risk to the public remains low, a news release said.
“As with any emerging pathogen, we can expect it was brought into the province, so it was related to travel,” Dr. Mayank Singal, BCCDC epidemiologist, said in an interview.
Monkeypox is “much less infectious” than COVID-19, he added.
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Since May, more than 700 cases of monkeypox have been found in non-endemic countries, primarily in Europe, according to the CDC. As of June 3, there were 77 confirmed cases in Canada, with 71 in Quebec, five in Ontario and one in Alberta.
A vaccine is available, but “there is no need for the general public to get vaccinated” due to the low risk posed, the centre said.
“We don’t think most people are at risk of getting exposed,” said Singal.
“What we are likely going to do, whenever there are cases in B.C., (is that) we will follow up with all the contacts of that individual and likely offer (the vaccine) to contacts who might have been exposed to it.”
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Monkeypox spreads through contact with sores and items like bedding or towels that have the virus on them. It can also spread through respiratory droplets, distributed by coughs or sneezes.
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It isn’t known to spread through semen, vaginal or rectal fluids, the centre added, but it can transmit through close contact during sexual activity.
“Anyone, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, could get infected and spread the virus if they come into close contact, including intimate sexual contact with an infected person or a contaminated object,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said in a Friday briefing.
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Symptoms consist primarily of skin lesions on the mouth and genitals, and can also include fever, headaches and joint and muscle pain, according to the World Health Organization.
Monkeypox cases in Canada are suspected to have originated from a sauna in Montreal, doctors have told Global News.
However, government officials have so far stayed clear of confirming the origin in Canada, citing concerns of privacy and stigmatization.
On Monday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix emphasized the CDC’s message that monkeypox poses a “very low” risk to the general population and has “been around for decades.”
“We want to make sure that everyone is aware and knows about this issue, and is aware of all the steps being taken to support this individual, this individual’s close contacts and the community,” he said of the province’s sole patient thus far.
Health minister speaks about first confirmed case of monkeypox in B.C.
The CDC advised people who have been exposed to monitor for symptoms, which can present between five and 21 days after exposure.
Anyone who develops symptoms is asked to visit a health-care professional, wear a mask and cover the lesions, and inform the clinic ahead of time.
They should also limit close contact, including sexual contact, with others.
– With files from Aya Al-Hakim
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