Ottawa – We are here to provide an update on efforts to address the outbreak of monkeypox in Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada is working closely with international, provincial and territorial partners on prevention and control activities aimed at containing the spread of monkeypox virus in Canada. In addition, we are closely monitoring emerging data – and as we learn more – our response and advice will evolve accordingly.
On July 23, following the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee to assess the ongoing monkeypox outbreak, Dr Tedros, Director General of the WHO, issued a statement declaring that the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox represents a public health emergency of international concern (or PHEIC). Our understanding of this virus is still evolving, and this declaration makes clear that this situation requires an urgent global response.
Globally as of July 25th, over 16,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported from 75 countries, territories and areas across all six designated regions of the WHO. This represents a 48% increase in global cases during the latest reporting week, as compared to the previous week.
In Canada as of July 26, a total of 745 confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported nationally, including 346 cases in Quebec, 326 in Ontario, 58 in British Columbia, 12 in Alberta, 2 in Saskatchewan, and 1 in the Yukon. Among cases for whom additional information is available, over 99% are male and the median age was 36 years. In line with international trends, the majority of cases in Canada reported intimate sexual contact with other men. To date, less than one percent of confirmed cases reported nationally were in females or people under 20 years of age. Although we are aware of international cases involving women and children, these account for one percent or less of cases with available data. Nevertheless, this is a reminder that monkeypox virus can spread to anyone through close contact with an infected person or contaminated items.
While the global monkeypox outbreak is a serious concern, there is optimism that by focusing efforts in Canada and worldwide we can seize this window of opportunity to contain the spread. Furthermore, working together, health authorities can engage individuals and community groups to employ immediate and broad efforts from the ground up. Simply put, as Dr. Tedros has said “This is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.”
Working together with provinces and territories, the Government of Canada remains focused on rapidly stopping chains of transmission to prevent the establishment of monkeypox in Canada, and protect public health and health care in Canada. To best coordinate our efforts, we have been meeting regularly with counterparts through the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health.
To date, the Government of Canada has deployed over 70,000 doses of Imvamune vaccine to provinces and territories and continues to work actively with jurisdictions as they manage their public health response. The government is also providing treatment for case management, as well as working to secure future national supplies of both vaccines and therapeutics.
Awareness is key to getting ahead of the virus. While vaccination is expected to provide protection, a successful monkeypox outbreak response relies on a variety of public health measures, including public health education to equip people with the information they need to make informed choices.
Monkeypox spreads in several ways. Typically, the virus spreads through close contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, respiratory droplets, or skin sores, but it can also be spread by direct contact with their personal or shared objects. As anyone can become infected, all people in Canada should be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox infection. Anyone who may have come into contact with a case or who is feeling unwell or has symptoms, including a skin rash that may be due to monkeypox, should limit contact with others and report their symptoms to a health care provider. Common signs and symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and development of a new rash.
At present, focusing the right strategies to the right groups in Canada involves continuing to engage with stakeholders to help raise awareness of the outbreak and address barriers to immunization and care in communities at highest risk. Currently this includes outreach to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and health providers who work with these communities, to help them protect their health and prevent spread to others. At this time, to lower the overall risk of getting infected and spreading the monkeypox virus, PHAC recommends practicing safer sex. Having fewer sexual partners, particularly anonymous partners, even when they don’t have symptoms, can also reduce your risk of getting infected.
Health care providers are urged to remain vigilant and closely watch for patients with any symptoms of monkeypox, which may include atypical presentations. Canadians can be confident that we have established many personal protective habits that can help reduce the risk of infection and spreading infectious diseases, including limiting our contacts and staying home when sick.
As we learn more, we will continue to provide regular updates to ensure people in Canada have the information they need to stay safe. Information is also available on canada.ca/monkeypox.