Health P.E.I. preparing as monkeypox cases rise across Canada

·3 min read
This image shows a monkeypox virus particle, that has been coloured, taken by a type of microscope called a transmission electron micrograph. (UK Health Security Agency/Science Photo Library - image credit)
This image shows a monkeypox virus particle, that has been coloured, taken by a type of microscope called a transmission electron micrograph. (UK Health Security Agency/Science Photo Library - image credit)

While P.E.I. has had no confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox, the provincial health organization says it is doing what it can to prepare.

Monkeypox, also known as MPX, has been spreading globally this year for the first time, with 210 cases in Canada according to the federal government's website. Patients must isolate until the lesions it causes heal.

"We have 140 doses of vaccine and those are given four weeks apart for anyone who is identified as a close contact," P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison told CBC News.

"We also have a couple of treatment courses, and those are antivirals from the emergency stockpile that have been allocated to Prince Edward Island."

Morrison said most symptoms of monkeypox occur within five to 21 days following exposure, and transmission usually occurs from skin-to-skin contact.

"There's some aerosolised transmission as well with someone else who has monkeypox, so certainly watching for the signs and symptoms associated with that if there's been that contact," she said.

The vaccine for monkeypox is given four days after exposure to reduce the chances of getting sick, while antiviral courses are given to those who are confirmed to have monkeypox.

Some health authorities in cities with high rates of monkeypox, like Toronto and Montreal, are beginning to vaccinate some at-risk groups preventatively. Morrison said that while P.E.I. has no plans to do this now, they are in discussion with other Atlantic public health colleagues and watching the national guidance closely.

Christinne Muschi/Reuters
Christinne Muschi/Reuters

"We want, at this point in time, to make sure our physicians and nurse practitioners are aware of the information and also working with some community partners to make sure that there's good education about monkeypox," she said.

"If we see an outbreak on Prince Edward Island, then we will adjust and may try to do some further vaccination."

Morrison said that she thinks monkeypox is a "very low risk for the general population" at this point, and that most people recover fairly well within two to four weeks.

"For most people, it's a self-limiting virus. But it can certainly be, as with any of the viruses, certainly more symptomatic for for some people than others."

She said lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic mean there has been more focus and understanding about viruses and communicable disease in general, and that helps with knowledge of spread and containment.

However, Morrison said it's important for those who may have come into contact with someone who has monkeypox or those who are showing symptoms to talk to a doctor or nurse.

Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

"If someone has traveled to an area where they have been exposed to someone or identified as a close contact of someone who may have monkeypox, they really should reach out to their physician or nurse practitioner, and we can work together to try to make sure they have either treatment if they're having symptoms or get the vaccine to have as a post-exposure prophylaxis," Morrison said.

Morrison said this is the first time monkeypox has been in Canada, and health authorities across the country are releasing as much information as they can to the public to abate worry.

"There's certainly lots of information that you have good access to that they're trying to put out nationally and through community groups and through our providers," she said. "Even the guidance that we've sent out to our providers here will evolve and change as we learn more and and also respond to the situation."

"In Toronto and Montreal, for instance, where the numbers are larger, they're responding in a slightly different way. But we will be certainly paying attention over the next weeks and months."

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