Monkeypox in Canada: PHAC now confirms 16 cases nationwide

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) says it has now confirmed a total of 16 cases of monkeypox in the country, all in Quebec.

The latest update on the spread of the viral disease came in a statement issued Wednesday evening.

The statement says Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory continues to receive samples from multiple jurisdictions for confirmation testing.

"At this time, cases of monkeypox are being identified and treated by local health clinics," the statement said.

"There is ongoing planning with provinces and territories to provide access to approved vaccines in Canada that, if required, can be used in managing monkeypox in their jurisdiction."

The PHAC says it has given Quebec a small shipment of the smallpox vaccine Imvamune from Canada's National Emergency Strategic Stockpile, with other jurisdictions able to receive some supply.

In April, Public Services and Procurement Canada submitted a tender to purchase 500,000 doses of the Imvamune vaccine between 2023 and 2028.

There is currently no need for mass immunizations, the PHAC says.

"I know Canadians are concerned," Duclos said in a statement Tuesday. "The Government of Canada is prepared to respond to emerging public health events and takes precautions to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases."

The national laboratory received its first samples during the week of May 16, before announcing the first two cases of monkeypox identified in Quebec on May 19. That number rose to five cases the following day.

Since then, other possible cases of monkeypox have emerged in Canada. On Wednesday, Toronto public health authorities said they identified two new suspected cases in the city, along with one probable case currently under investigation.

Monkeypox is a rare disease that was first discovered among colonies of monkeys used for research. Historically, it has also been transmitted from animals to humans, with the first human case recorded in 1970. The virus can spread through close contact with an infected animal, human, or contaminated material.

The federal government is prepared to help provinces and territories develop their own means of testing for the disease in order to monitor it more easily, Duclos said.

"Our surveillance system is working, as is our testing system, though we will continue to refine both, including supporting provinces and territories in building their own testing capacities so cases can be identified and traced even more efficiently," Duclos' statement read.

The government will also provide updated guidance on preventing infection, as well as procedures around isolation and case management. Canadians can expect the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to provide additional guidance in the coming weeks as well.

In his statement, Duclos emphasized that the emergence of monkeypox is not the same as COVID-19, which quickly spiralled into a worldwide pandemic.

"I want to re-iterate to Canadians that this is a different situation than we saw ourselves in with the emergence of COVID-19," Duclos' statement read. "While global understanding of the monkeypox virus is still evolving, we do have a supply of vaccines, which we will be sure to maintain, and we are working hand-in-hand with our provincial and territorial counterparts to roll out our response plan as quickly as possible."

In an effort to avoid contracting the disease, Canadians are advised to physically distance from those around them, frequently wash their hands and wear masks in crowded environments.

With files from CTV News and The Canadian Press

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