Case of monkeypox identified in Alberta

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WATCH (May 27): For many of us, monkeypox is a virus we hadn’t heard of before this month. And while it is spreading, how worried do we need to be? We spoke with infectious disease physician, Allison McGeer who breaks it all down with a reassuring outlook – May 27, 2022

Alberta has identified a case of monkeypox in the province.

In a post on social media Thursday afternoon, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said one isolated case of the disease has been confirmed in an adult in Alberta.

Monkeypox is a rare disease that can cause fevers, aches and rashes, according to Hinshaw, who added that monkeypox is uncommon and generally considered a low risk to the public at large.

Read more: Outbreaks of diseases like monkeypox becoming more frequent, WHO warns

Hinshaw said in order to protect the patient’s privacy, no identifying information will be released. It’s not known how the person contracted the virus or where in Alberta they reside, but Hinshaw said the person “had close contact with a known case outside the province.”

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Hinshaw said the person is self-isolating, and her team is working with them to investigate and do contact tracing.

“At this time, the risk of further transmission is low,” Hinshaw said.

Read more: Toronto Public Health reports 3 more confirmed monkeypox cases

Monkeypox is ordinarily found in countries in West and Central Africa with tropical rainforests but recently the disease has been discovered in more than 20 countries including Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, the United States, Israel and Australia. More than 500 cases have been reported. No deaths have been reported.

This is Alberta’s first confirmed case of the disease.

“I would like to remind Albertans that monkeypox does not spread easily between people. Transmission can occur by contact with body fluids, sores or items recently contaminated with fluids or sores,” Hinshaw said.

“While it’s also possible to get sick from respiratory droplets after spending a long time close to an infected person, those at greatest risk are those who have had prolonged close contact with a case.”

Dr. David Evans, a virologist at the University of Alberta who has been researching “pox” viruses since the 1980s, told Global News monkeypox is “a disease completely unlike COVID-19.”

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“It’s a DNA virus. It’s not made of RNA,” he said, adding that it usually results in small outbreaks that tend to stop after “very limited transmission.”

“It’s not time to panic. These viruses are not particularly infectious.”

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Canada’s chief public health officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam said monkeypox can also spread by having direct contact with someone’s contaminated objects, including linens, clothing and other shared objects and surfaces.

“This includes spread via skin-to-skin or other intimate contact, including sexual activities. The virus can also be transmitted through inhalation of infectious respiratory droplets during close contact,” Tam said on Twitter Thursday afternoon.

Read more: Quebec monkeypox infections double in one week with 52 confirmed cases

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Anyone who believes they may have been in prolonged close contact with someone with monkeypox, or is experiencing symptoms such as fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes is asked to self-isolate and call 811.

“Monkeypox is reportable in Alberta as a rare or emerging communicable disease. We are continuing to investigate the spread of monkeypox with our federal and provincial partners and will regularly assess the situation as it evolves,” Hinsahw said.

Confirmed cases of monkeypox have also been reported in Ontario and Quebec.

Evans said “there are periodic outbreaks” of monkeypox but noted “it is a bit unusual to see this number of cases cropping up” in Canada.

“As far as I know, I don’t think we’ve ever seen a monkeypox case before,” he said, adding that there are “pretty good’ antiviral drugs as well as vaccines that Canada has. He noted the vaccines are normally most effective in someone who has been exposed to monkeypox but is not yet showing symptoms.

Evans added that the history of the virus indicates it normally tends to “peter out” because it does not spread “that efficiently.”

–With files from Phil Heidenreich, Global News

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