Quebec public health officials are reporting a total of 25 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the province as of Thursday.
Dr. Luc Boileau, interim public health director in the province, described it as a “serious outbreak” of the virus. Officials are investigating several more suspected cases.
“We had about 20 to 30 suspected cases under investigation so far,” Boileau said.
The province will also begin administering the Imvamune vaccine to close contacts of confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox as soon as Friday. Boileau said the federal government has provided the supplies, which arrived earlier this week.
A single dose of the vaccine will be provided within four days of exposure to the virus. Quebec’s Health Ministry said in a statement that a second dose could be administered, but only if the risk of exposure is “still present 28 days later” and “only following a decision by public health authorities.”
Boileau said the majority of confirmed cases in the province are tied mostly to men who have had sexual relations with other men. There has been one case in a person under 18.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said Thursday that authorities are paying close attention to the greater Montreal area, which he described as the “epicentre” of the monkeypox outbreak.
“This is an important issue, but this is really centralized. This is really at a specific point,” he told reporters in Quebec City. “And Montreal (public) health will follow that very closely.”
Last week, Quebec recorded the first cases of the virus in the country. The first suspected cases were reported on May 12 in Montreal.
Monkeypox is a rare disease that comes from the same family of viruses that causes smallpox, which the World Health Organization declared eradicated around the globe in 1980.
The virus spreads through prolonged closed contact. It can cause fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, swollen lymph nodes and lesions.
— with files from Global News’ Dan Spector and the Canadian Press