Source of monkeypox case in N.B. still unknown, vaccine supply limited

Click to play video: 'N.B. looking to get more monkeypox vaccine doses'
N.B. looking to get more monkeypox vaccine doses
WATCH: Public health in New Brunswick says it has so far been unable to trace the source of the first case of monkeypox. With only 140 doses of the vaccine available, the province is seeking to get more to help mitigate the spread. But some of those who are most at risk say it's concerning that yet another aspect of their health-care is inaccessible. Nathalie Sturgeon reports – Aug 16, 2022

Public Health in New Brunswick has been unable to identify the source of the first confirmed case of monkeypox in the province, according to its deputy chief medical officer of health.

Contact tracers have been working to find the close contacts of the individual, but Dr. Yves Leger said the original source has not been determined, raising further concern.

“There was another case that was contagious in the province at some time,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “So Public Health is very busy following up with that situation.”

He said there is still a significant effort to figure out the source.

Read more: New Brunswick confirms first case of monkeypox in the province

Monkeypox is a viral infectious disease related to smallpox, from which most people recover on their own after a few weeks, but people can become very sick and could die in some circumstances, according to Public Health.

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But as monkeypox arrives in the province, there is a limited supply of vaccines available in New Brunswick, which were given out on a per-capita basis, Leger explained.

There are 140 doses in New Brunswick, and the exact same number of doses in Prince Edward Island. Leger said the federal government has been able to acquire more vaccines and New Brunswick is hopeful it’ll be able to secure more of those doses soon.

The monkeypox outbreak, to date, has disproportionately impacted men who have sex with men, but Public Health in New Brunswick and others across Canada have been clear that anyone can contract monkeypox.

“We are aware and sensitive to the fact there is potential stigma surrounding this infection and the outbreak,” Leger said.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick confirms its first case of Monkeypox'
New Brunswick confirms its first case of Monkeypox

Mike Minard, who is in the group most at risk for the virus, said he’s been unable to access a vaccine in New Brunswick, adding to a long list of problems with accessible health care for the LGBTQ2 community in the province.

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“It’s really, you know, scary from a number of standpoints,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “I think it also gets to be a little bit frustrating, as well, when there is a clear solution and something that can be done from a public health perspective that perhaps isn’t being done yet today to protect us, to protect our friends, protect our neighbours and really just protect people in the province.”

In New Brunswick, those eligible for the vaccine are those who are close contacts of a positive case. Minard doesn’t qualify.

He said there has been serious consideration for him and his partner to travel to Quebec to get it, where access is more broad. In Quebec, there are 456 reported cases. It’s the second-highest number in the country.

Read more: Federal government announces $500K for monkeypox initiatives in B.C. and Alberta

For Minard, the lack of access to vaccination as a protective measure is concerning.

“The fire is just starting, you know, it’s starting to smoulder a little bit in the forest and we can put the fire out with a bucket of water,” he said, speaking to the benefits of vaccination as a preventive measure.

It’s also the stigma that weighs on Minard.

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“Monkeypox is not a gay disease,” he said. “It’s not something that only affects the gay community. It happens to be in that community now. So we need to be mindful of that and make sure that people are aware of that.”

However, as Minard waits for New Brunswick to broaden vaccine eligibility, a trip to Montreal ahead of that decision isn’t off the table.

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