New Brunswick is ready if any cases of monkeypox are confirmed in the province, says the acting chief medical officer of health.
Public Health currently has 140 doses of the Imvamune vaccine on hand, said Dr. Yves Léger.
“They will be used in alignment with NACI (National Advisory Committee on Immunization) guidance. So specifically for managing cases and contacts,” he said.
The post-exposure vaccine may decrease the severity of the disease or prevent it entirely, according to health officials.
On Thursday, Newfoundland and Labrador announced it has a probable case. Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Rosann Seviour didn’t confirm where the probable case originated but noted most viruses enter the province through travel.
Contact tracing is underway, and anyone identified as a close contact of a person who has monkeypox will be offered a vaccine, Seviour said.
A total of 745 cases of monkeypox have now been confirmed across Canada — 346 in Quebec, 326 in Ontario, 58 in B.C., 12 in Alberta, two in Saskatchewan and one in Yukon.
Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed the international outbreak of the virus a global emergency —its highest level of alert.
The number of cases globally has increased 48 per cent over the previous week and the disease has now spread to 75 countries, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
More than 16,000 cases have been reported worldwide, although officials believe the true number is higher.
Still time to stop the spread
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Wednesday the spread of monkeypox is “of serious concern.”
Still, “there is optimism that by focusing efforts in Canada and worldwide, we can seize this window of opportunity to contain the spread,” she said during a news conference.
She noted the disease has, so far, been limited almost exclusively to men, with 99 per cent of those infected being male and over the age of 36. In Canada, most of the reported cases have been among men who have sex with men.
Tam contends the outbreak in Canada can be stopped by employing specific strategies that target the right groups of people.
Those strategies, she said, could include a public awareness campaign that focuses on gay and bisexual men through community organizations, educational settings and dating apps like Grindr.
‘Working behind the scenes quite readily’
New Brunswick Public Health has “certainly been working behind the scenes quite readily to make sure that we’re prepared for any cases should they occur here,” said Léger.
This includes developing guidance on how to manage cases and contacts, and surveillance activities, he said.
“There will be some communications activities that will be occurring as well on that topic.”
Léger was unable to provide more details.
Earlier this month, Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Public Health was working on a public awareness campaign, which will include messaging around prevention and risk.
Tam said little is known about how monkeypox is spread and how people can protect themselves.
But she urged vulnerable groups, such as men who have sex with men, to get vaccinated to curb the spread.
Canada has a sufficient supply of the vaccine for now, she said. About 70,000 doses of Imvamune have been sent to the provinces and roughly 27,000 of those have been administered, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The national health agency is also asking men who have sex with men to practise safe sex and to limit their number of partners, especially if those partners are casual acquaintances.
In addition to the public awareness campaign, New Brunswick Public Health is putting together some resources for clinicians, Russell has said. Many doctors have likely never seen a case, noted New Brunswick Medical Society president Dr. Mark MacMillan.
Monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus that causes a disease with symptoms similar to, but less severe than smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, monkeypox is usually a mild illness and most people recover on their own after a few weeks. But some people can become very sick and even die.
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