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No monkeypox cases in N.S., despite comments from health minister

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There are actually no confirmed cases of monkeypox in Nova Scotia, a health official told Global News Thursday, despite the province’s health minister saying there were cases the day before.

Michelle Thompson said Wednesday during question period at the legislature that the first “couple” of cases of monkeypox had been identified in the province.

She said those cases were “contained” and monkeypox vaccinations have been offered to some close contacts.

“There is in no way an outbreak of any kind, all of the contacts have been traced very readily and public health is on top of that,” Thompson said.

Read more: Monkeypox declared a global health emergency. Are travel curbs needed? 

But on Thursday, Ryan Sommers, a public health physician and senior regional medical officer of health and senior medical director of population and public health, said there are actually no confirmed or suspected cases.

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He said there have been fewer than five investigations into close contacts of cases from outside the province, but their tests have come back negative.

“At this time, we do not have a Nova Scotian diagnosed with monkeypox,” said Sommers.

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He said the province has been allocated a “small amount” of the monkeypox vaccine from the federal government and less than five doses have been used so far.

“In those situations, we are saving the use of vaccine for the contacts of cases, so vaccines can be given before someone’s exposed to disease or afterwards,” he said.

“If it’s given within four to 14 days after exposure took place, you can use that as a way to help prevent development of monkeypox in a contact.”

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In a tweet Thursday, the Department of Health and Wellness said there were two cases identified in people not from the province that were “closely tracked.”

“Public Health is monitoring the issue carefully,” it said.

Khalehia Perrault, a Health Department spokeswoman, said the two cases involved people who were visiting Nova Scotia. “It was a case of two individuals who came to Nova Scotia with monkeypox. Public Health was alerted of the situation, assessed it and determined there was no risk of transmission.”

In a scrum at the legislature Thursday afternoon, Thompson confirmed there are no known cases of monkeypox in the province and said the risk to Nova Scotians remains low.

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“There’s no concern at this time that we have monkeypox in the province or that we have any type of outbreak whatsoever,” she said.

Case in Newfoundland and Labrador

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Newfoundland and Labrador reported its first probable case of monkeypox.

Dr. Rosann Seviour, Newfoundland and Labrador’s acting chief medical officer of health, gave few details about the case or in what area of the province the person involved likely contracted the disease, citing concerns about stigmatization.

Seviour said residents wouldn’t receive the same level of benefit from detailed monkeypox exposure notifications as people did with information released during COVID-19 outbreaks.

“Some of our concerns about this is about stigmatization of certain groups and I think when you come from a smaller region it makes people more identifiable, something we don’t want to have happen,” Seviour said.

Read more: Canadians should practise safe sex, limit partners to curb monkeypox spread: Tam

On Wednesday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said 745 cases of monkeypox had been confirmed in Canada. The vast majority of the cases have been among men who have sex with men.

Seviour said a probable case is defined as a person with an unexplained acute rash or with lesions and who has been exposed to the virus. She said contract tracing is underway and close contacts of the probable case are being offered the Imvamune vaccine.

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The province is the sixth in Canada to identify a case, she said.

Symptoms of monkeypox include skin lesions in the mouth and genital area, fever, night sweats, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and joint or muscle pain. The virus is spread through prolonged close contact and can be transmitted through skin lesions, respiratory droplets, and by sharing clothing, bedding or other common items that have come into contact with an infected person’s sores.

Read more: Monkeypox vaccines: WHO says about 16 million doses available as cases rise 

Quebec has reported 346 cases of the disease since the start of the outbreak, the highest number in Canada.

The World Health Organization last weekend declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern.

Seviour said it was only a matter of time before Newfoundland and Labrador detected its first case.

“I wasn’t really surprised that we got a case because of the activities all across the world, international travel and how mobile people are,” she said.

She said that while the current vaccine stockpile in the country isn’t large, she didn’t think she would have problems procuring enough to treat people.

“I have no doubt that should we need vaccine next week that I would be able to get it in the quantities that we would need to start our campaign,” Seviour said.

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In New Brunswick, there are currently no confirmed or probably cases of monkeypox.

Dr. Yves Leger, the deputy chief medical officer of health, told Global News there is a “very small supply of vaccine that’s been provided to us by the federal government.”

He said each province has received an allocation based on population size and they plan to use the vaccine in line with guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

“We would basically reserve it for management of any case and contacts that would occur here in New Brunswick,” he said.

— with files from The Canadian Press and Alicia Draus

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