MONKEYPOX: WHAT WE KNOW
As of June 6, 2022, there are more than 50 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Canada, with a small number of these in Toronto, and more being tested. So far, there are no reports of severe illness.
Monkeypox is a virus that can cause fever, muscle aches, and extreme tiredness, along with a rash, lesions, or blisters. Both animals and humans can contract the virus, and it’s spread by close and prolonged contact. It’s in the same family as smallpox, but monkeypox is less contagious and has milder symptoms.
Most cases are reported in central and western African countries. It’s very rare to see cases in Canada or the US, and it does not look like any of these cases are linked to travel to central or western African countries.
Symptoms typically show up within about five days of exposure to monkeypox, but can take up to 21 days to show up. They can include:
- Fever and chills
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A rash or blisters in your mouth (like a canker sore), on your face, or around your genitals.
- More serious symptoms are possible but are less common. Recently, between 3%-6% of cases have led to death.
In this most recent outbreak, some people had the rash or blisters appear first before feeling tired and feverish. And in some cases, people didn’t have any noticeable symptoms.
HOW DOES IT GET PASSED ALONG?
The monkeypox virus can be transmitted by respiratory droplets, by touching a lesion or blister, or contaminated surfaces like clothes or bedding.
It typically needs prolonged face-to-face or body contact to spread, but the longest (recent) chain of transmission we know about is six to nine person-to-person infections. That means it doesn’t tend to spread very quickly or very far.
So far, it seems like the current outbreak is mostly linked to extended skin-to-skin contact, sex, kissing, or very close talking. It seems very unlikely that it’s been passed along just by being in the same space as someone else, a handshake or hug, or walking by another person.
It is possible to pass on the virus in the days before you have any noticeable symptoms.
IS IT JUST AFFECTING GAY/BI/QUEER MEN?
So far, reports are that it’s mostly passing through some sexual networks among men who have sex with each other. There are a few cases being investigated that don’t involve gay or bisexual men, too. The virus doesn’t target people and so any prolonged contact (not necessarily sexual) can pass it along. Plus, it can live in animals, which has caused outbreaks in the past (most recently in 2003 in the US).
It is important to understand this is still considered a rare virus. The message is: Don’t panic but be aware.
If you have questions or concerns about possibly coming into contact with an infected individual or you have symptoms that may be caused by monkeypox, please contact your provider as soon as possible. You will be directed to the nearest appropriate hospital and public health will be working with you and your doctor/nurse practitioner on getting the investigations/testing done.
For more information:
Special thanks to Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance for sharing a lot of great info on monkeypox.