Manitoba confirms first case of monkeypox

Manitoba has confirmed its first case of monkeypox, saying a public health investigation is ongoing.

The province said it won’t release information on the confirmed case, including the person’s region of residence, gender and age to protect their identity.

“We can appreciate that many people will have questions about this case. However we need to balance that with our responsibility to protect the identity of this person,” said Dr. Jazz Atwal, deputy chief provincial public health officer.

Public health officials confirmed an investigation is ongoing, which includes contact tracing. However, officials said the investigation indicates the virus was likely picked up outside of the province. Atwal would not say if public health believes the case was acquired outside of Canada.

The province said public health officials will notify close contacts and specific locations if the risk is considered high and the contacts are unknown.

“At this time, we believe this is an isolated case,” Atwal said.

He said there is always the possibility of undetected cases, saying some people may have such mild symptoms that they haven’t looked for care. Atwal said the province is also testing samples from physicians that were not specifically collected for monkeypox surveillance, however he said they have all come back negative.

“The risk to the general public remains low, but it is important for everyone to be aware of monkeypox so those that are at risk can take steps to reduce their risk and seek care and get tested if they develop symptoms,” he said.

Symptoms of monkeypox are typically flu-like, including fever, headaches, muscle and back aches, chills, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes. The province said several days after symptoms appear, a rash may also show up typically on the face, hand palms or soles of the feet.

While anyone can be infected with monkeypox, Atwal said the infections reported in Canada have primarily been reported among people who self-identify as gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. Atwal said the monkeypox vaccination efforts will be focused on this community.

Those individuals are available to book a vaccine appointment if they also meet the following criteria: 

  • If they have received a diagnosis of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and/or syphilis in the past two months;
  • If they have had two or more sexual partners in the last 21 days;
  • If they have attended or are planning to attend locations for sexual contact;
  • If they have had anonymous sex in the past 21 days or are planning to; or
  • If they have engaged in sex work or plan to, either as a worker or client.

“We do not expect that most Manitobans will need to be immunized against monkeypox; however, we will continue to work with the federal government to make sure the supply of vaccine we have available aligns with the demands from the eligible populations,” Atwal said.

More information about monkeypox can be found online.

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