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Monkeypox: How concerned should we be? – CTV News

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NEW YORK —
Global health officials have sounded the alarm over rising cases in Europe and elsewhere of monkeypox, a type of viral infection more common to west and central Africa.

As of Saturday, 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported from 12 member states that are not endemic for the virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The U.N. agency said it expects to identify more cases of monkeypox as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is not typically found, and will provide further guidance and recommendations in coming days for countries on how to mitigate the spread of monkeypox.

The following is what is known about the current outbreak and relative risk of monkeypox:

How dangerous is it?

The risk to the general public is low at this time, a U.S. public health official told reporters at a briefing on Friday. Read full story

Monkeypox is a virus that can cause symptoms including fever, aches and presents with a distinctive bumpy rash.

It is related to smallpox, but is usually milder, particularly the West African strain of the virus that was identified in a U.S. case, which has a fatality rate of around 1%. Most people fully recover in two to four weeks, the official said.

The virus is not as easily transmitted as the SARS-CoV-2 virus that spurred the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Experts believe the current monkeypox outbreak is being spread through close, intimate skin on skin contact with someone who has an active rash. That should make its spread easier to contain once infections are identified, experts said.

“COVID is spread by respiratory route and is highly infectious. This doesn’t appear to be the case with the monkeypox,” said Dr. Martin Hirsch of Massachusetts General Hospital.

“What seems to be happening now is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world,” WHO official David Heymann, an infectious disease specialist, told Reuters.

What has health experts concerned?

The recent outbreaks reported so far are atypical, according to the WHO, as they are occurring in countries where the virus does not regularly circulate. Scientists are seeking to understand the origin of the current cases and whether anything about the virus has changed.

Most of the cases reported so far have been detected in the UK, Spain and Portugal. There have also been cases in Canada and Australia, and a single case of monkeypox was confirmed in Boston, with public health officials saying more cases are likely to turn up in the United States.

WHO officials have expressed concern that more infections could arise as people gather for festivals, parties and holidays during the coming summer months in Europe and elsewhere. Read full story

How can people protect against infection?

The UK has begun to inoculate healthcare workers who may be at risk while caring for patients with the smallpox vaccine, which can also protect against monkeypox. The U.S. government says it has enough smallpox vaccine stored in its Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to vaccinate the entire U.S. population.

There are antiviral drugs for smallpox that could also be used to treat monkeypox under certain circumstances, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

More broadly, health officials say that people should avoid close personal contact with someone who has a rash illness or who is otherwise unwell. People who suspect they have monkeypox should isolate and seek medical care.

What might be behind the spike in cases?

“Viruses are nothing new and expected,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.

Rasmussen said a number of factors including increased global travel as well as climate change have accelerated the emergence and spread of viruses. The world is also more on alert to new outbreaks of any kind in the wake of the COVID pandemic, she said.

(Reporting by Michael Erman; additional reporting by Jennifer Rigby and Natalie Grover in LondonEditing by Michele Gershberg, Bill Berkrot and Frances Kerry)

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Pharmacists in London, Ont., hope medication shortage is resolved before cold and flu season – CBC.ca

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An Ontario-wide shortage of cold and flu medication has led to partially empty shelves in pharmacies in London. 

The Ontario Pharmacists Association told CBC News in April that drug stores were seeing an increase in people looking to treat symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, due to COVID-19, influenza or the common cold, after mask mandates were lifted on March 21. 

Months later, pharmacists in London say the shortage has been further exacerbated by allergy season and ongoing supply chain issues.

“Demand is the same, but we hear patients are going from one pharmacy to the other looking for the product,” said Gamal Awad, owner of Guardian Wonderland Pharmacy. 

For the past month, wholesalers of over-the-counter medications for cold and flu have been unable to make their delivery dates. Pharmacies have lost out on sales, said Awad, while customers are scrambling for back-ordered items like cough syrup, Tylenol or Advil. 

At Guardian Wonderland Pharmacy in London, Ont., what little stock owner Gamal Awad has is pushed to the front of shelves. (Angela McInnes/CBC)

“The only thing we can ask our patients is to wait as we look back on our supplier website to see when those medications are going to be back online or when we can order them,” said Fadi Shatara, a pharmacist at Chapman’s Pharmacy.   

The shortage includes medication for children, said Shatara. He advises parents to refer to their doctors for alternatives if they’re unable to find what they need. 

Risk of transmission is low, for now

London’s medical officer of health, Dr. Alex Summers, said outdoor movement in summer generally brings a lower risk of respiratory illness transmission, even as COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. 

However, the absence of those measures and return to indoor activity mean risk for cold, flu and COVID-19 will rise in the fall and winter months. 

“The more people gather indoors, the greater the risk of transmission. The less people are wearing masks, the greater the risk of transmission, the less people are vaccinated, the greater the risk of transmission,” he said. 

That leaves pharmacists like Shatara bracing for the changing seasons and hoping the medication shortage is resolved by then. 

“If it happens again, that’s going to be devastating, especially with the lack of medications,” he said. “Now, if that lasts until winter or fall, it’s going to have a huge impact on everyone.” 

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Monkeypox vaccine coming to Guelph next week – GuelphToday

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A pre-exposure vaccine for monkeypox will start going into the arms of Guelph residents next week.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health confirmed they will get their first shipment of the Imvamune prophylaxis (PrEP) vaccine next week, and “expect to order and receive small amounts of the vaccine on a rolling basis over the coming weeks from the province based on the eligibility and demand.”

“We expect to be able to meet the demand locally and increase our access if needed,” said Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum, the health unit’s associate medical officer of health.

Provincial guidelines show eligibility for the pre-exposure vaccine is limited to trans or cis-gender individuals who self-identify as belonging to the gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men community and at least one of the following:

• Have received a diagnosis of bacterial STI (i.e., chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis) in the past two months;

• Have had 2 or more sexual partners within the past 21 days or may be planning to;

• Have attended venues for sexual contact within the past 21 days (i.e., bath houses, sex clubs) or may be planning to, or who work/volunteer in these settings;

• Have had anonymous sex in the past 21 days (e.g., using hookup apps) or may be planning to;

In addition to that, the person lives in an area with a confirmed case, has been diagnosed with a bacterial STI in the last two months, engage in sex work or may be planning to, or have had two or more sexual partners, went to a venue for sexual contact or had anonymous sex in the last 21 days.

The guidance also asks for anyone who is immunocompromised, pregnant or breastfeeding to contact the health unit for consideration for the single dose, as they may be at higher risk of severe illness if infected by the virus.

Guelph has had one confirmed case of monkeypox, a man in his 20’s announced last month.

The Imvamune vaccine has been around for quite some time. It was first approved for use by Health Canada in 2013 for protecting residents against smallpox in a public health emergency.

The approval was expanded in 2020 for use against monkeypox and other orthopoxvirus infections for adults who are at a high risk of exposure.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health said anyone with signs or symptoms of monkeypox should not get the vaccine, “as the vaccine is not indicated in the treatment of monkeypox infection.”

Details on when and where eligible residents will be able to get the dose are still being finalized, as well as how they will be contacted.

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Why some kids on P.E.I. are battling summertime colds and flu – CBC.ca

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If you’ve noticed your kids are getting sick more often lately, you’re likely not the only one. 

P.E.I.’s College of Family Physicians says doctors have been seeing a high number of children with non-COVID-19 respiratory illnesses recently.

Dr. Heather Austin, president of the college, said there are a number of factors that could be contributing to the increase, including the fact that throughout the pandemic children have had little exposure to these respiratory viruses. 

“We are seeing a lot of upper respiratory illnesses within our population at this point in time,” she said.

She said the lifting of mandates and public health restrictions also plays a role.

“Mostly it is moving away from the mandatory masking regulations and having us be in close proximity and able to spread all of the different viruses and pathogens that are in our environment to each other again.” 

Dr. Heather Austin says typically a virus could involve mild symptoms over three to five days, like a low-grade fever, congestion, cough, sore throat and a runny nose. In some cases coughing could last up to three weeks. (Zoom )

Austin said many older people have built up an immunity to many of these viruses, but when it comes to children some are likely being exposed to certain viruses for the first, second or third time. 

“They don’t have that same built-up immunity so they’re more likely to develop an infection from an exposure,” she said. 

Austin also said it may seem like children are catching colds or illnesses that simply won’t go away. But it’s more likely that the child is actually being infected with a number of different viruses, one after the other. 

According to the province’s latest flu data, there have been 50 lab-confirmed cases of the flu for the 2021-2022 season. The median age of those cases is about 12 years old. 

Emergency room saw spike in illness too

The spike in respiratory illnesses is something emergency room physician, Dr. Trevor Jain has noticed as well. 

“For the last six weeks we’ve seen an uptick in respiratory illnesses in the pediatric population and that mostly has to do with mandates changing,” Jain said. 

He said it is unusual to see increased respiratory illness at this time of year. Typically infections of flu and other viruses spike fall, winter or early spring among children, Jain said. 

“We’re talking anything from the common cold to RSV [respiratory syncytial virus], to croup, increased asthma due to viral infections, even some pneumonia,” he said.

“That was a little unexpected but when you think about it, you know we have increased mixing of the population, dropping of mandates so it just goes to show that those public health measures pre-vaccination were very effective at limiting the spread of respiratory illnesses.” 

Man in shirt and blazer looking into camera.
Emergency room physician, Dr. Trevor Jain says doctors at the hospital have seen an increase in patients with everything from the common cold to pneumonia over the last 6 weeks. (Skype)

Jain said the emergency room is now starting to see the number of admissions for respiratory illnesses go down. 

Dr. Austin said typically a virus could involve mild symptoms over three to five days, like a low-grade fever, congestion, cough, sore throat and a runny nose. Coughing can sometimes last for up to three weeks in some cases and just as the child is recovering, they pick up another virus. 

“The times when you’d want to seek medical attention would be a persistent fever, certainly a fever beyond five days,” Austin said. 

“If they’re very lethargic, sleepy, not themselves, not eating and drinking in the usual way.”

She said if a child is in pain or struggling to breath they should also get medical attention.

To limit the spread of respiratory illness, Austin said people should make sure they are washing their hands regularly and to stay home if they feel unwell.

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