‘Unusual patterns of disease activity’: Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health planning for possible local monkeypox cases

While COVID-19 has been in the news for over two years now, another disease has been making headlines in recent weeks.

In recent weeks, cases of monkeypox have made their way to North America. Although endemic in parts of Africa since at least the 1970s, the virus has already made its way outside the continent, including an outbreak in the US Midwest in 2003.

The 2022 outbreak, however, is the widest the virus has spread outside of Africa, with cases reported around the world.

“We don’t really have a full explanation of why it’s popping up around the world in ways we haven’t seen in the last few years and decades,” said Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum, medical officer of health. Deputy of Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. , told the Mercury Tribune. He said Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health recently held meetings to discuss what to do if a case is found locally.

The virus spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids, with early symptoms including fever, headache and fatigue, according to Health Canada. The much more noticeable lesions and rashes usually appear within one to three days, often starting on the face or extremities. The rash usually lasts two to four weeks.

People with monkeypox can be contagious from the time the first symptoms appear until the scabs from the lesions have fallen off and the skin has healed.

According to a May 25 statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada, there have been 26 confirmed cases of monkeypox, all but one in Quebec.

Earlier this month, Public Health Ontario released guidance on what should be done for patients who test positive for monkeypox, including placing them in airborne isolation rooms with negative pressure ventilation or, if such room is not available, place them in a single room with the door closed.

Those treating the patient are advised to wear full PPE, including an N95 respirator, gloves and eye protection.

Monkeypox is not the only emerging disease to have spread in recent weeks.

First identified in April, a new acute strain of hepatitis affecting children has seen hundreds of cases worldwide, mostly in the UK. Last month, the World Health Organization reported that about one in 10 of the 169 known cases at the time had resulted in a liver transplant.

The hepatitis viruses that normally cause the disease were not detected in any of the children, although some of them tested positive for an adenovirus, according to the WHO. Some have also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“For us, our big question is what is the factor or factors that contribute to this risk,” Tenenbaum said.

“And then once you understand that better, maybe we can have a broader set of public health measures to address that.”

Although he noted that there is an increased awareness of emerging diseases as a result of COVID-19 – “There are a lot more conversations online or on social media between medical experts, epidemiologists and others about these things, and these people reach a much larger audience than they ever had in the past” – Tenenbaum said the pandemic could also partly explain why these diseases are being seen on this scale.

“With the easing of public health measures, the easing of things like mask mandates this spring and the changes people are making to the way they interact, it changes the dynamics of how these things spread d ‘person to person,’ he said, pointing to recent cases of local flu, long after a typical flu season has ended, for example.

“And when you remember that all of these diseases eventually spread from person to person, and you reflect on the fact that our behaviors have been so different over the past couple of years, it makes sense that we’re seeing some unusual patterns of disease activity.”

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