What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral infection most found in Central and West Africa, where there are tropical forest and animals that carry the virus.
Why are we talking about monkeypox?
Since the beginning of May 2022, infections with monkeypox virus have been confirmed in many western countries where it doesn’t normally happen.
How is it transmitted?
A person-to-person transmission can occur through close and prolonged contact with skin lesions like sores and blisters, or infected respiratory secretions such as coughs and sneezes during close, face-to-face contact over several hours, or with objects (clothes, bed sheets or towels) recently contaminated with fluids from the infectious person or materials from the lesion. It can also be transmitted to an unborn child.
Anyone who has close contact with someone who is infectious is at risk. It is not known to transmit through casual contact, such as going to the store or while traveling on a plane with someone.
Monkeypox is spread through close contact, often between people during intimate and sexual activities.
What are the symptoms?
Signs and symptoms include headache, fever, chills, general discomfort, fatigue, muscle and back pain, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, night sweats, rash, and skin lesions. Many have had oral and genital skin lesions.
Are there any complications?
For most people, the illness will be mild and will resolve on its own within 2 to 4 weeks. A few could develop complications such as secondary infections, pneumonia, sepsis, encephalitis, meningitis, and eye infections.
Who may be more at risk of severe disease?
People who are immunocompromised, young children and people who are pregnant.
Is there treatment?
There are no specific treatments for monkeypox virus infection. Symptoms of monkeypox usually resolve naturally. Treatment is usually to try to control the symptoms such as fever and dehydration. If a case of monkeypox is severe, doctors may treat it with a new antiviral call Tecovirimat, and/or hospitalization.
There is a vaccine which has been proven effective to prevent monkeypox or lessen its symptoms. It is the Imvamune vaccine. One to two doses of vaccine are needed, depending on one’s risk of being in contact with the virus. This vaccine is safe and has been authorized by Health Canada. Vaccination is a great way to protect against monkeypox.
To learn more about the Imvamune vaccine:
Who can receive a monkeypox vaccine?
As the number of available vaccines is relatively limited worldwide, vaccination efforts prioritize certain groups.
Although the infection can be contracted by anyone who has close contact with someone who is infectious, monkeypox presently disproportionally affects men, cis or trans, who have sex with men and two-spirit, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people (2SGBTQ+).
Currently, the vaccine against monkeypox is offered to:
- People who were in contact with someone who has monkeypox;
- Men, cis or trans, and two-spirit, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people who have had, or will have, sexual contacts with at least one new male partner, cis or trans;
- Sex workers.
These groups may change in the future following the evolution of the situation.
The risk of monkeypox is not limited to people who are sexually active or men who have sex with men. The virus does not discriminate between sex, sexual orientation, sexuality, gender identity, age, or ethnicity.
How can I receive a vaccine against monkeypox?
If you are eligible for vaccination, call your CLSC/Nursing station, ask for your public health nurse or COVID nurse and ask for a vaccine. It is available in every community. You can see any caretaker you trust: services are confidential.
What are the side effects?
The most common side effects of the vaccine are pain at the side of injection, nausea, headaches, muscle pain and fatigue.
In most cases, side effects are mild and disappear quickly a few days after getting vaccinated.
Why get vaccinated if the body naturally fights off the disease?
Recovery from monkeypox can take a while. Symptoms are visible and evident. It can leave spots and scars on the skin. In rare cases, monkeypox can result in serious complications requiring hospitalization or death.
The vaccine can also reduce the risks of spreading the disease to family and friends, and in the community.
What should I do if I think I have monkeypox?
If you think you have or have had symptoms similar to monkeypox, you should call your CLSC/Nursing station and ask for an appointment.
Tests are available to confirm the diagnosis. People who have monkeypox can prevent transmission to others with simple measures.
Until you see a doctor or a nurse, follow these ways to avoid spreading monkeypox to others:
- Wear a mask;
- Do not share towels, clothing, sheets, or other things that have touched your skin;
- Don’t get close to others, including people you live with. Do not have sexual contact with others;
- Clean your hands, and objects, and surfaces that you touch regularly;
- Keep any sores or blisters covered as much as possible with long sleeves and long pants.
Anyone who has symptoms that could be monkeypox should seek advice from a health care provider immediately.
What should I do if I think I have been in contact with someone who has monkeypox?
Asymptomatic contacts may be offered a smallpox vaccine to prevent the disease. They may continue with routine daily activities. Symptoms monitoring is recommended for a period of 21 days since the last contact with monkeypox. Contacts who show symptoms should call their CLSC/Nursing station.
It is recommended to avoid intimate and sexual contact and if you live with a suspected or confirmed case, avoid sleeping in the same bed, limit your contacts with them and wear a mask in their presence.
Is Nunavik at risk?
Transmission to large groups in Nunavik is very unlikely. Early detection of the presence of monkeypox in a community can help limit the spread in small groups close to the infected person. The NRBHSS is monitoring the outbreak, informing the clinics. We are not concerned by the situation.
What about stigma?
Most of the recent cases are happening through close contacts between men, cis or trans, who identify as having sex with other men and two-spirit, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people, but any person who has had close contact with a monkeypox case could catch it.
Stigmatizing people because of a disease is NEVER acceptable. Anyone can get or pass on monkeypox, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, sexuality, gender identity, age, or ethnicity.
Why are there so many cases in this global outbreak among men, cis or trans, in 2SGBTQ+ communities?
Viruses like monkeypox spread through contact in social networks. Some 2SGBTQ+ men are part of social networks that cross countries.
Many men in these networks are active in protecting their health, including getting tested for sexually transmitted and blood born infections (STBBIs). This may have led to earlier detection of the outbreak in 2SGBTQ+ communities, and outbreaks may also be found in other communities.