What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus, an Orthopoxvirus from the same family as smallpox. Monkeypox is less transmissible than smallpox, and cases are often less severe. The virus first was discovered in 1958, and cases have been found in both humans and animals, most often in central and west African countries. The virus is rare in Canada; however, cases have occurred in 2022 and numbers are increasing.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of monkeypox, include some or all of the following:
- Muscle pain
- Low energy and fatigue
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Rash, sores, or lesions on the body, including hands, face, feet, and genitals
The rash or sores may appear a few days after other symptoms and the way they look may change over time, such as from flat red marks, to raised pimple-like bumps, to scabs as they heal. Monkeypox often clears up on its own, however some cases can be more severe and may require treatment.
How is monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox is spread from someone with the virus passing it to someone else, and usually requires close contact. Common ways the virus is spread include:
- Physical contact such as:
- Intimate sexual contact (including kissing)
- Direct skin-to-skin contact with sores from the virus
- Respiratory droplets, from coughing or sneezing, or from long conversations had in close proximity (such as when caring for someone with monkeypox)
- Contact with material with the monkeypox virus on it such as:
- Used utensils or dishes which have not been properly cleaned
- Unwashed bedding, towels or clothing
PLEASE NOTE: Monkeypox is not spread through brief contact such as short conversations or walking past someone with monkeypox.
How do I prevent monkeypox?
Proper hand washing and hand hygiene are important in preventing illnesses of all kinds, including monkeypox. Other ways you can help prevent getting monkeypox include:
- Not visiting people who have, or suspect they have monkeypox
- Self-monitoring for symptoms if you think you have had contact with someone who has or suspects they have monkeypox
- Wearing protective equipment such as a mask and gloves, if you are caring for someone with monkeypox
- Limiting use of hookup apps or anonymous dating services, and the number of sexual partners
- Not sharing personal items such as water bottles, toothbrushes, etc.
- Avoiding close contact, including sex, kissing, or cuddling, with people with symptoms like sores or rashes
Is there a monkeypox vaccine?
The Imvamune vaccine has been approved by Health Canada and may be offered as part of prevention against the virus. The vaccine can be given after exposure to an infected person, or before for individuals who may be at a higher risk for exposure. The Imvamune vaccine can only be given before symptoms appear and can’t be given to those who have had monkeypox before.
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
If you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for monkeypox, you may be eligible for vaccination. The Imvamune vaccine should be offered ideally within 4 to 14 days from when you were exposed. Please contact the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) to find out if you are eligible for vaccination and to book your appointment.
If you have been identified as a contact of a positive case of monkeypox, you may also be contacted by the EOHU.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
The Ontario Ministry of Health has provided guidelines for the use of the Imvamune vaccine for pre-exposure vaccination in certain at-risk groups, including:
A)Two-spirit, non-binary, transgender, cisgender, intersex or gender-queer individuals who self-identify or have sexual partners who self-identify as belonging to the gay, bisexual, pansexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) community AND at least one of the following:
- Had a confirmed sexually transmitted infection within the last year;
- Have or are planning to have two or more sexual partners, or are in a relationship where at least one of the partners may have other sexual partners;
- Have attended venues for sexual contact (i.e., bath houses, sex clubs) recently or may be planning to, or who work/volunteer in these settings; or
- Have had anonymous sex (e.g., using hookup apps) recently or may be planning to; and/or
- Are a sexual contact of an individual who engages in sex work.
B) Individuals who self-identify as engaging in sex work or are planning to, regardless of self-identified sex or gender.
Household and/or sexual contacts of those identified for PrEP eligibility in parts (a) and (b) above AND are moderately to severely immunocompromised or pregnant may be at higher risk for severe illness from a monkeypox infection may be considered for PrEP and should contact their healthcare provider (or their local public health unit) for more information.
The EOHU is offering pre-exposure vaccinations by appointment only. Please call the EOHU at 613-933-1375 or 1-800-267-7120 to book.
What do I do if I think I have monkeypox?
If you think you may have monkeypox, contact the EOHU or your health care provider, and self-isolate and stay home, except to seek medical treatment or testing.
Isolate from the other people in your house, to prevent the spread. Wear a mask and cover any sores you may have if you cannot avoid contact with another person. Some people, such as immunocompromised individuals, people who are pregnant, and children under 12 years old are at a higher risk of complications from monkeypox, so it is important to avoid contact with them.
To be assessed and tested for monkeypox, please visit your local emergency room, as the EOHU does not provide testing or diagnosis for monkeypox. If you test positive, you should contact your health care provider and/or the EOHU with the results of your test.
COVID-19 vs Monkeypox
While the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, news of monkeypox outbreaks and increasing cases may seem alarming. However, much more is known about monkeypox than COVID-19, and vaccinations and treatments are available. There is currently a low risk of getting monkeypox out in public settings.
|When was it discovered?||2019 – As a new virus, not much was known about how it was spread, how to prevent it and how serious it was. A lot needed to be learned, very quickly.||1958 – Monkeypox has been known about for decades, and we have both vaccines to prevent cases and antivirals to help treat serious illness.|
|How is it spread?||
|What are the symptoms?||
|What do I do if I have symptoms?||
|How do I prevent it?||
|Is there a vaccine?||COVID-19 vaccines are available for individuals 6 months and older in Ontario and help prevent severe illness from COVID.||The monkeypox vaccine is available for use before exposure in eligible groups, and for everyone post exposure. The vaccine can help prevent illness, but cannot be given if symptoms have begun, or if you have had monkeypox previously.|
IMPORTANT: THE COVID-19 VIRUS IS MUCH MORE CONTAGIOUS AND EASIER TO SPREAD THAN THE MONKEYPOX VIRUS.