The first confirmed case of monkeypox in the United States this year recently travelled to Canada, health officials said Wednesday, as concern rises over the spread of the infectious virus in multiple countries.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said in a statement that an adult male tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, which was confirmed Wednesday by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The department did not say where in Canada the man travelled to or when. The case does not pose any risk to the public, officials added, but contact tracing is ongoing.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said no cases of monkeypox have been reported to the agency as of Wednesday evening.
However, Dr. Don Vinh, a microbiologist at McGill University in Montreal, told Global News he was aware of at least seven suspected cases of the virus, all in Montreal, which he was working to confirm.
PHAC would not say whether it has been made aware of those suspected cases or the one confirmed in Massachusetts.
Global News has reached out to Montreal Public Health and other major public health units for more information.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control confirmed no cases have been reported in British Columbia.
The reports come as cases are emerging in the U.K., Spain and Portugal, raising concerns about further transmission.
Health officials in Spain are investigating after eight men started showing symptoms of the viral infection. Those cases have yet to be officially confirmed, and a spokesperson for Madrid’s regional health department said that the National Microbiology Centre is working to determine a final diagnosis.
The U.K. announced on Monday that they have detected four more cases of monkeypox, bringing the country’s total up to seven cases. The first case in the U.K. was detected on May 4.
In Portugal, five cases of monkeypox have been found, with 15 more people being tested. National authorities said that everyone affected is in stable condition, and that all 20 cases were among men who live in Lisbon and the Tagus Valley.
Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, fatigue and muscle aches, according to the CDC. The organization says that after one to three days of fever, sufferers of monkeypox can develop a facial rash that then spreads to other parts of the body as lesions, which later fall off.
The incubation period for monkeypox is usually seven to 14 days, but can range as wide as five to 21 days.
While there is no cure for the virus, most people recover from a monkeypox infection within a few weeks. In Africa, where the disease is most prevalent, up to one in 10 people die after contracting the virus.
PHAC says the virus is typically transmitted from animals to humans, but human-to-human transmission can occur “through contact with bodily fluids, lesions on skin” or through mucous and respiratory droplets.
Officials in Spain and the U.K. said a majority of the cases under investigation there involve men who have sex with men.
Mateo Prochazka, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said on Twitter monkeypox is spread through close contact, and there is not enough evidence to prove that the virus has morphed into a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
“Close contact between two people (such as during sex) could also facilitate transmission — but this has never been described before,” he wrote.
He warned that cases becoming infected through sexual contact “is a novel route of transmission that will have implications for outbreak response and control.”
UKHSA is warning gay and bisexual men “to be aware” of any rashes or lesions, and recommend contacting a sexual health clinic if symptoms emerge.
—With files from Kathryn Mannie
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