Fifteen people with links to monkeypox cases have been given the smallpox vaccine, and around 10 others were booked to get the shot on Tuesday, Montreal’s public health department says.
Quebec says it is administering the Imvamune smallpox vaccine to “high-risk contacts” of confirmed or probable cases of monkeypox, a rare viral disease first detected in the province two weeks ago.
Since monkeypox is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox, administering a smallpox vaccine can prevent people from contracting the disease or make it less severe, officials say.
Because the vaccination campaign is targeted and based on contact tracing, it’s impossible to say how many people might get vaccinated, said Marianne Paquette, a spokesperson for Montreal public health.
A single dose of the vaccine can be administered within four days of exposure. A second dose can follow only if the risk of exposure is still present 28 days later.
Officials have said several Montreal cases were linked to a traveller who came from Boston.
Paquette said the public health department does not have any more information about the possible source of the Montreal outbreak. “At the moment, the priority is on limiting the outbreak rather than on finding the origin,” she said.
As of last Thursday, Quebec had 25 confirmed monkeypox cases, with another 30 possible cases under investigation.
A spokesperson for the Quebec Health Department said the province would provide an update on the number of cases on Tuesday, but it did not do so.
Federal health officials say only one other province has confirmed the presence of monkeypox: Ontario, which has reported a single case.
Monkeypox spreads through close, prolonged contact, Quebec says on its simian pox webpage. The disease can be transmitted five days before symptoms appear and until all skin lesions have crusted over.
The incubation period — the time between exposure to an infectious pathogen and symptom onset — is usually five to seven days but can last up to 21 days.
The disease can be transmitted five days before symptoms appear and until all skin lesions have crusted over.
In most cases, the illness disappears on its own in two to four weeks, but in “very rare cases … serious complications can occur,” Quebec says.
Montreal’s public health department has advice for people who have had close contact with a suspected case, a confirmed case or if symptoms develop.
- If you have been in close contact (sexual or living under the same roof) with a suspected case or symptomatic individuals, monitor for symptoms for 21 days.
- Limit close contact, including sexual relations, during the monitoring period.
- If you develop symptoms of monkeypox, get assessed by a health professional, wear a mask and cover the lesions. Before you consult, it is preferable to inform the clinic of the situation.
- People suspected of having the illness should isolate themselves at home, wear a mask, cover the lesions when in contact with other people, and engage in hand hygiene.
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name.
The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.
Since 1970, “most cases have been reported from rural, rainforest regions of the Congo Basin, particularly in the DRC and human cases have increasingly been reported from across central and west Africa,” the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
Since mid-May, cases have been reported from several countries where the disease is not typically found.
On Monday, WHO said it does not believe the monkeypox outbreak outside Africa will lead to a pandemic. The health agency is considering whether the flurry of cases should be assessed as a “potential public health emergency of international concern,” as was done for COVID-19 and Ebola, the Reuters news agency reported.