The person with New Brunswick's first suspected case of monkeypox had recently travelled to areas where there were other cases of the disease, the province's acting deputy chief medical officer of health says.
While Public Health isn't releasing details about the travel-related case for privacy reasons, the person wasn't assessed until after their symptoms faded, said Dr. Yves Léger.
That made the sample the province sent to the national lab in Winnipeg not ideal, Léger said, and it tested negative for monkeypox.
But because of the patient's travel history and clinical photos he said it's still fair to say there was a suspected case of monkeypox in New Brunswick.
"I think in this case we're probably going to be left with not knowing for sure if it was that or not," Léger said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.
He said the province is sending out a notice Friday declaring monkeypox a reportable disease as part of a requirement under the Public Health Act that mandates the reporting of unusual illnesses.
Monkeypox qualifies because it's not typically seen in New Brunswick.
"We want to make sure we're very clear that it needs to be reported and clarify when it needs to be reported to public health," Léger said.
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard revealed the suspected case of monkeypox on Wednesday, when she was answering questions about another matter in the legislature.
Léger said the province's plan is to update the public only if there are future confirmed cases of the disease.
Monkeypox is a type of rash that typically starts out with non-specific symptoms like headache, chills, fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. A few days later is when the rash appears. It typically surfaces as red spots that become fluid-filled bumps, which eventually crust off allowing the lesions to heal.
The whole thing can last two to four weeks.
Cases in 30 countries
Cases are spreading in Canada. Alberta has confirmed one case, and Toronto has confirmed five cases, while others are under investigation. Quebec has reported 52 confirmed cases, and more than 50 confirmed or suspected cases have been reported in the rest of Canada.
Nearly 550 cases have been reported across 30 countries, CBC News reported Thursday.
"Fortunately it's not an infection that's very easily transmitted," Léger said. "This is not at all like COVID."
Infection requires close contact, so it doesn't spread easily in public spaces such as grocery stores or workplaces or routine social interactions.
Aside from the lesions, the virus can be transmitted through saliva, Léger said. If the fluid from the rash gets on clothes, bedding, or towels, the virus can also be transmitted if someone is in close contact with those articles.
"For the general public, the risk remains very, very low at this point in time. It's not something that easily spreads."