Calgary

Monkeypox vaccination underway as Alberta cases spread slowly

Alberta has identified three more cases of monkeypox since last week, and a vaccination program is underway for people who've been exposed, in an effort to contain transmission.

8 monkeypox cases confirmed in Alberta since the outbreak hit Canada

Closeup of a a hand sticking a need tip into an upside down vial of monkeypox vaccine.
A health-care worker prepares a syringe filled with the monkeypox vaccine in Montreal. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

Alberta has identified three more cases of monkeypox since last week, and a vaccination program is underway for people who've been exposed, in an effort to contain transmission.

A total of eight adults in the Calgary and Edmonton zones have tested positive in the province so far.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 300 monkeypox cases have been confirmed in the country with the vast majority in Quebec (211) and Ontario (77).

Monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus, and while it is similar to smallpox — which was eradicated globally in 1980 — it is less severe.

"I was expecting them to find a few more cases as the contact tracing continues. I know that Alberta Health Services is doing a lot of work to try and trace down all of the individuals who might have one connection or another to each other and getting advice out to look for the disease" said David Evans, professor in the department of medical microbiology and immunology at the University of Alberta.

"The numbers will, no doubt, increase a little bit further as we continue to discover additional cases or find some additional transmission chains. But I don't expect them to do that sort of exponential leap that we saw with COVID, for example." 

In a tweet on Monday, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said contact tracing is underway for the latest three cases.

Smallpox vaccine offered

As the outbreak grows around the globe, health officials in Alberta are offering a single dose of the smallpox vaccine to people who are close contacts of known cases.

That would include sexual partners, people who share a home and health-care workers who provided care without the appropriate personal protective equipment.

As of Monday, eight people had been immunized with Imvamune, which is approved for use in Canada.

The vaccine is ideally given within four days of exposure to the virus to prevent the disease. But it can be given within a two-week window to reduce symptoms.

Craig Jenne is an associate professor of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

"If an individual believes they have been exposed or is experiencing symptoms (including fever, swollen glands, new sores, rash), they should call 811," Hinshaw said in the Twitter thread.

According to Craig Jenne, an associate professor in the department of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary, the overall risk to the general public is fairly low, but he expects monkeypox will be around for the foreseeable future.

"It is still spreading. But it's spreading slowly," said Jenne.

"Even though we're aware of it, we know it's out there, we've encouraged people to take precautions, there is still a low level of transmission and this may unfortunately continue for a little while whether that be transmission here in Canada or … people acquiring it on travels and presenting with the virus once they return to Canada."

Jenne believes a public awareness campaign will be key moving forward to ensure people understand the risks and how to protect themselves.

Health officials have said the majority of global cases have been among men who have reported sexual contact with other men, but they say the virus can spread to anyone exposed to an infected person or contaminated objects.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Lee

Reporter

Jennifer Lee is a CBC News reporter based in Calgary. She worked at CBC Toronto, Saskatoon and Regina, before landing in Calgary in 2002. If you have a health or human interest story to share, let her know. Jennifer.Lee@cbc.ca

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