MONTREAL — The Public Health Agency of Canada says two cases of monkeypox in Quebec are the first confirmed cases in the country.
The agency said in a release late Thursday that it is working with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and public health officials in Quebec to investigate potential exposure and contacts of a case of monkeypox recently identified in the U.S.
It says a U.S. citizen recently travelled to Canada by private transportation and may have been infected before or during his visit to Montreal.
“Tonight, the Province of Quebec was notified that two samples received by the National Microbiology Laboratory have tested positive for monkeypox,” the release said. “These are the first two cases confirmed in Canada.”
The agency said the investigation into monkeypox is evolving and ongoing in Canada and around the world.
“More information is needed to assess if there are increased health risks to people in Canada.”
Earlier Thursday, the Quebec Health Department confirmed the province’s first two cases of monkeypox and said 20 other suspected cases are under investigation.
In a news release, the department said people should be alert to symptoms of the rare disease but stressed that it is spread through prolonged close contact with someone who is infected.
“Its contagiousness is thus considered limited compared with other viruses (flu, COVID-19, etc.),” the release said.
Montreal public health authorities urged calm as they confirmed they are investigating 17 suspected cases of monkeypox, saying the disease isn’t likely to spread through the community.
Montreal’s public health director said that based on recent outbreaks in Europe and a case reported in the United States, there is a “strong possibility” that the infections in the city involve the virus linked to monkeypox.
“We do not have to panic. At the time that we are speaking, it is not something that is going to go to community transmission that is going to be sustained,” Dr. Mylène Drouin told a news conference.
Drouin said the first suspected cases in Montreal were reported on May 12 from clinics specializing in sexually transmitted diseases, although symptoms had begun appearing around April 29. She said the cases are seen mostly in men between the ages of 30 and 55 years old who have had sexual relations with other men.
Most cases identified in the city are not severe, and symptoms involve a period of fever and sweating followed by the appearance of a painful rash in the genital area, Drouin said. All of the suspected cases are isolating and they have been instructed to cover their lesions until they heal. Those considered significant contacts — people in the same household or sexual partners — have been asked to monitor for symptoms for 21 days.
“There is no specific treatment currently available,” Drouin said. “It is painful, but mainly the forms we have right now are not severe forms of the illness.”
Drouin said the disease is transmitted by prolonged close contact and by droplets, adding that there is no risk from activities such as taking public transit, eating at a restaurant or shopping.
“This is not something we can acquire by going to the grocery store,” she said.
Although the infections were likely acquired through sexual activity, monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.
“We do not want to stigmatize any segment of the population,” said Dr. Geneviève Bergeron, the medical officer for health emergencies and infectious diseases at Montreal public health. “We want people to be aware of the concern but also to keep it in perspective that what we’re worried about is prolonged close contact, and that can happen in any sort of different type of setting.”
She said there are likely other cases in the city that haven’t been identified, and she called on people who are showing symptoms to contact a doctor.
Monkeypox is typically limited to Africa, and rare cases in the United States and elsewhere are usually linked to travel there. A small number of confirmed or suspected cases have been reported this month in the United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain.
On Wednesday, health officials in Massachusetts reported a monkeypox case in a man who had recently travelled to Canada. The man was in Montreal at the end of April to meet friends and returned home in early May.
Montreal health officials initially thought they were dealing with cases of chancroid, a sexually transmitted bacterial infection, until they received word of the U.S. case and changed the focus of their investigation.
“The case that we have in Boston was linked to a few of the suspected cases (in Montreal) but not all of them,” Bergeron said, noting some had travelled to Mexico and Belgium, while other cases weren’t linked to travel at all.
Bergeron said there is evidence that those who received the smallpox vaccine as children may have better protection against monkeypox. It was routinely offered to those born before 1972 in Canada. Drouin said any decision about reviving vaccination would come from the federal and provincial governments.
Monkeypox typically begins with a flu-like illness and swelling of the lymph nodes, followed by a rash on the face and body. In Africa, people have been infected through bites from rodents or small animals, and it does not usually spread easily among people.
Monkeypox comes from the same family of viruses as smallpox. Most people recover from monkeypox within weeks, but the disease can be fatal for up to one in 10 people, according to the World Health Organization.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.
— With files from The Associated Press.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Toronto to shorten COVID-19 vaccine clinic hours over summer – iHeartRadio.ca
Toronto will be shortening hours at the city-run immunization clinics during the summer.
According to Toronto Public Health, the new hours of operation will begin on Monday and will impact all of the six active clinics offering the COVID-19 vaccine. In a notification posted to social media, officials said the changes will “meet the needs of Toronto residents throughout the summer.”
These are the new hours:
- At Metro Hall and Crossroads Plaza the clinics will be open between noon to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
- At Cloverdale Mall, Mitchell Field Community Centre and 1940 Eglinton Avenue, the clinics will be open noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
- At Thorncliffe Park Community Hub, the clinic will be open between noon to 6 p.m., as well as between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
All clinics are offering first, second and third doses, as well as fourth doses for select eligible groups.
NEW: Starting tomorrow, we will be shifting our hours of operation for our city-run clinics to meet the needs of Toronto residents throughout the summer. See ⬇️ for more information or visit our website here: https://t.co/zowJ7oWnma pic.twitter.com/1ZoDsCNJJr
— Toronto Public Health (@TOPublicHealth)
July 3, 2022
Residents can book an appointment using the provincial booking portal or call centre.
Students in Grades 7 to 12 can also book appointments at these clinics for school-based vaccinations such as those for Hepatitis B, HPV and Meningococcal diseases.
About 51.7 per cent of all eligible Toronto residents have received three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Ontario's COVID signs point to the start of a summer wave – Toronto.com
Signs are emerging that point to the beginnings of a summer wave of COVID-19 in Ontario, the head of the province’s science advisory table is warning.
Dr. Fahad Razak, scientific director of the science table, points to a rising COVID wastewater signal, increasing test positivity and a surge of public health units experiencing exponential growth in cases.
There has been a gradual increase in the provincewide wastewater signal since the beginning of June along with test positivity that has been going up for the past three to four weeks. Then there’s the fact, he says, that about 40 per cent of public health units now have a reproduction number greater than one — all amounting to evidence the province has entered another wave.
“Putting all of this together, I think we’re seeing the beginning of a wave,” Razak said. “But it does not look like it has the intensity in terms of amplitude or pace of what we saw with the start of the Omicron wave. How fast it will rise and what the peak will be are unclear.
“Based on everything that we’re seeing, both in Ontario and globally, this is likely to be a less severe wave than what we’ve experienced in the past with less direct pressure on the health-care system.”
Razak’s red flag comes as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended this week that additional boosters be given to a larger portion of the population in the fall. Other regions are also seeing a rise in hospitalizations driven by Omicron subvariants, including Quebec, which recently experienced a surge in community transmission and cases in health-care workers.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization reports that infections are growing in 110 countries driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, resulting in an overall 20 per cent increase in global cases.
Several infectious disease experts say fourth doses should be offered to all residents now ahead of a possible fall wave, while others say only those who are deemed at higher risk should be getting a second booster.
“If you’re someone who is higher-risk or is in a situation where you’re being exposed to a lot because you’re on TTC twice a day, in and out of work or something like that, it would be very reasonable to go and get that fourth shot now,” Razak said. “On the other hand, if you are otherwise low-risk and you have very little day-to-day exposure, it is reasonable to wait to get that booster dose until you’re closer to the fall or there’s more concretely a rise happening.”
At a press conference Thursday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said up-to-date vaccinations are the “foundation of our protection” and that those who had two doses and a booster shot had hospitalization rates that were five times lower than unvaccinated people during the Omicron wave in April and May.
She also reiterated NACI’s recommendations that those at risk of severe illness receive a fourth shot now, as boosters “increase protection by activating your immune response to restore protection that may have decreased over time.”
Dr. Gerald Evans, the chair of the division of infectious diseases at Queen’s University, said it’s uncertain whether fourth doses will be effective enough against BA.4 and BA.5 for the larger population. Those subvariants have an alteration within its genomes, making it more difficult for antibodies to bind to the spike proteins, which in turn makes these variants more likely to have immune-evading properties, he explained.
Pfizer and Moderna are developing vaccines that will specifically target Omicron, known as bivalent vaccines, which will likely be available in the fall. Both companies say they’ve tested their vaccines and they appear to be highly effective against Omicron, and plan to submit their data to governments in the next few months.
“I do totally agree that we should be rolling out boosters in the fall,” said Evans. He predicts a wave will occur in the late fall or early winter, and another will follow in the late winter or early spring because that’s how the COVID-19 virus has behaved previously, similar to other illnesses in the coronavirus category, he said.
NACI also announced in a release Wednesday that everyone aged 12 to 65 may be offered another dose in the fall, regardless of the number of previous doses, but that recommendation is “discretionary” and not categorized as a strong recommendation.
Those groups include all residents over 65; people 12 and older who have underlying medical conditions; Indigenous adults; racialized and marginalized communities that have been harder hit by the virus throughout the pandemic; migrant workers; residents of shelters, correctional facilities and group homes.
Recommendations will be provided on the type of COVID-19 booster dose that should be offered as evidence emerges on bivalent vaccines.
NACI said in its press release that “cases of COVID-19, including associated hospitalizations and deaths, are currently declining in Canada. However, the likelihood, timing, and severity of a future wave of COVID-19 is uncertain.”
Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, said he is afraid the increasing signals Ontario is experiencing could mean we are approaching endemicity.
“My belief is that when we took masks off on the TTC, we started to harmonize different wastewater signals across the GTA. In other words, mixing people together on the TTC is not going to cause the signal at one wastewater treatment plant to go down, it’s going to cause the other ones to come up to match,” he said.
“If you think about that logically, that kind of synchronization, that’s a path to endemicity. Not a wave that comes and then subsides, but a new normal where the line is flat but it is at a very elevated level.”
He added that the elevations in wastewater signals, as well as cases in public health units, reflect the dropping of mask mandates earlier this month.
“But it’s not just that. It’s the mindset that goes with it. We see more and more people who ought to know better engaging in crazy, risky behaviour,” Furness said. “If I can be on the TTC and I don’t need to have a mask, then I can go out to dinner because that’s obviously less dangerous and if that’s the case, I can definitely go see a movie.
“It’s causing self-destructive logic to take hold.”
Olivia Bowden is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: email@example.com
Hamilton records first case of rare monkeypox virus: public health – Global News
Hamilton Public Health (HPH) has its first reported case of the monkeypox virus, according to the city’s medical officer of health.
Officials say the infected person is currently isolating at home and all contacts have been notified by the health unit.
It’s believed the resident was most likely infected during a recent visit to Toronto.
“At this time the risk to the general public remains very low, as we have not detected the virus circulating in Hamilton, and the virus does not spread easily,” medical officer of health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said in a release on Monday.
“Hamiltonians should not be concerned going about their routine daily activities.”
As of late last week, more than 5,000 monkeypox cases have been reported from 51 countries worldwide that don’t normally report the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of infections in Europe represents about 90 per cent of the global total, with 31 countries in the WHO’s European region having identified cases.
Monkeypox, a viral illness causing flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, has been spreading largely in men who have sex with men outside the countries where it is common.
As of Wednesday, 276 cases of monkeypox have been reported in Canada, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
Four cases have been identified in British Columbia, five in Alberta, 67 in Ontario and 202 in Quebec.
The World Health Organization’s Europe chief warned Friday that monkeypox cases in the region have tripled in the last two weeks and urged countries to do more to ensure the previously rare disease does not become entrenched on the continent.
African health authorities said they are treating the expanding monkeypox outbreak as an emergency, calling on rich countries to share limited supplies of vaccines to avoid equity problems seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO Europe chief Dr. Hans Kluge said in a statement that increased efforts were needed despite the UN health agency’s decision last week that the escalating outbreak did not yet warrant being declared a global health emergency.
“Urgent and co-ordinated action is imperative if we are to turn a corner in the race to reverse the ongoing spread of this disease,” Kluge said.
Hamilton Public Health Services hosted a pop-up monkeypox vaccination clinic on Thursday for at-risk community members by appointment only.
More than 60 doses of the monkeypox vaccine were administered to at-risk community members aged 18-plus.
The city has not confirmed whether any future clinics will be facilitated.
— with files from The Associated Press
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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