Monkeypox patients in Ontario must be isolated in health-care settings

A generic N95 mask is seen in this image. (Pexels)

Health-care workers treating patients with monkeypox should use proper N95 masks, eye protection and isolation protocols similar to those of COVID-19, officials say.

In an infection prevention and control document released this month, Public Health Ontario says that while historically monkeypox has been limited to prolonged face-to-face contact or skin-to-skin contact with a lesion, “the possible transmission during the prodromal period and similarities to variola virus (smallpox), the potential for airborne transmission has been suggested.”

As such, these patients should be placed in an airborne isolation room with negative pressure ventilation when being treated in a health-care setting.

If this isn’t available, public health Ontario says the patient can be placed in a single room with the door closed.

When neither option is available, officials say “precautions should be taken to minimize exposure to surrounding individuals.”

Health-care workers must wear a fit-tested and seal-checked N-95 respirator, gloves, gown, and eye protection.

Public Health Ontario says these precautions should be maintained until scabbing has fallen off and new skin is present.

This is in stark contrast to how COVID-19 was dealt with back in early 2020, when health-care workers were not provided with adequate PPE while dealing with serious outbreaks in both hospitals and long-term care.

In April 2020, the Ontario Nurses Association sought a court injunction to force some long term-care homes to provide staff with items like N95 facial respirators. At the time, the association argued that in some cases, homes locked the masks up and “actively dissuaded nurses from using the precise PPE that they have deemed necessary.”

It appears as though Ontario health officials are acting swiftly to contain possible spread of this virus. Ontario’s chief medical officer of health issued an order to health-care providers on Friday requiring them to report any possible or suspected cases of monkeypox to local authorities.

There has only been one suspected case of monkeypox in Ontario so far. It was identified in a Toronto man who had contact with someone who recently travelled from Montreal.