Nova Scotia has its first confirmed case of monkeypox in a resident, the province announced Tuesday.
In a release, the Department of Health and Wellness said the individual got the illness while travelling outside of the province and symptoms appeared after their return to Nova Scotia.
Public health has been following the case closely and has identified only one low-risk contact, the province said.
“Monkeypox cases have been reported in other Canadian jurisdictions, but the risk of exposure remains low,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, in the release.
“Nova Scotia is working closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada to monitor the situation here and across the country.”
Monkeypox is spread through very close, intimate person-to-person contact, the release said. So far, it has been reported mostly among men who identify as gay or bisexual or men who have sex with men.
The province currently has a “very small allotment” of 160 doses of vaccine, which it is reserving for those at the highest risk of infection, such as those who are deemed close contacts of someone with monkeypox.
“The Province is working with the federal government to quickly increase Nova Scotia’s supply of the monkeypox vaccine, Imvamune,” the release said.
“The Province has also been working closely with groups including Sexual Health Nova Scotia, prideHealth and the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia as it moves to establish a pre-exposure vaccination program targeted to high-risk groups.”
As of Aug. 19, there were more than 1,100 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Canada, with the majority of cases in Ontario and Quebec.
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Province urged to ‘get ahead’ of community transmission
An open letter last week signed by representatives from Sexual Health Nova Scotia, the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia, the Community-Based Research Centre, the Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance and Dalhousie University called for “immediate action” to roll out the vaccine to groups that are most at risk of monkeypox.
“The failure to proactively roll out vaccination in Nova Scotia limits access to this key prevention intervention to those who do not have resources to seek vaccination elsewhere,” the letter said. “This further reinforces inequalities and inequities in access to health care, including on the lines of race and class.”
The letter, dated Aug. 18, said the province should scale up access to vaccines, including before exposure, as well as provide financial support to those who must isolate or miss work due to the illness.
It also called for the development of “an accessible online self-evaluation checklist for monkeypox, with clear guidance on where and how to seek more information, medical care and financial support.”
“The window of opportunity to get ahead of this new public health challenge is now, before community transmission becomes established in the province,” the letter continued.
“Nova Scotia should be supporting Two-Spirit, gay, bisexual, trans and queer men who have sex with men and non-binary people, who are known to be proactive at actively safeguarding their health, as well as other communities at risk, with tools to protect their health and their communities.”
Monkeypox spreads through close contact with an infected person, including sexual activity, direct contact with monkeypox sores, inhaling respiratory droplets from an infected person and contact with contaminated items like clothing or bedding.
Symptoms usually develop five to 21 days after exposure to the virus.
Initially, symptoms begin with fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, headache, muscle, joint and back pain, and exhaustion.
Symptoms can progress one to two days later and can include a rash or sores that usually start on the face, legs or arms and can affect other parts of the body, including hands, feet, mouth and genitals.
While this is the first Nova Scotian to have monkeypox, late last month the province said it had identified two cases from people who were not from Nova Scotia. At the time, public health said the cases were closely tracked and there was no risk of transmission.