Canada now has 477 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the country, with numbers climbing in three provinces over the last week, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) announced Wednesday.
Since July 4, a total of 177 new cases have been confirmed in the country, representing a 59 per cent increase in case numbers over the last nine days.
Quebec continues to have the lion’s share of the viral disease, with 284 cases as of July 13, up from 211 cases last week.
But Ontario saw the biggest increase in cases of all the provinces, going from 77 cases as of July 4 to now confirming 156 cases. British Columbia also saw an increase in cases for the first time in weeks, with 29 cases now confirmed compared to four previously. Alberta continues to have just eight cases confirmed, unchanged from the last update.
Monkeypox, which causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, is transmitted to humans from animals caused by an orthopoxvirus, which is related to smallpox, according to PHAC.
Individuals can be infected through direct contact with an infected person or by shared contaminated objects, including bed linens or towels.
“PHAC is continuing to collect and analyze epidemiological information reported by the provinces and territories to help define the national scope of the investigation and to determine if there are any increased health risks to people in Canada,” the agency said in a statement released Wednesday.
Around 60 countries in which monkeypox is not endemic have reported outbreaks of the viral disease, with confirmed cases now at 10,400. The disease mainly occurs in west and central Africa and only occasionally spreads elsewhere.
The World Health Organization announced Tuesday its emergency committee for monkeypox will reconvene next week and look at trends in the outbreak and at how effective counter-measures taken against the virus have been.
The committee will also make recommendations for what countries and communities should do to tackle the outbreak, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesusi said Tuesday during a briefing in Geneva.
Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, is in close contact with her provincial and territorial counterparts to ensure cases of monkeypox in Canada continue to be rapidly identified and managed, PHAC said in its statement.
The national microbiology laboratory in Winnipeg, Man. is performing diagnostic testing on the virus and is conducting whole genome sequencing – an enhanced fingerprint analysis – on Canadian samples of monkeypox, the agency added.
“This sequencing will help our experts understand the chains of transmission occurring in Canada,” PHAC says.
– with files from Reuters.