Monkey pox | The virus almost eradicated in Montreal, but caution remains in order

(Montreal) Montreal has almost eradicated the monkeypox virus from its territory, according to doctors in the city, while a few months ago it was the epicenter in Canada.

Posted at 6:26

Jacob Serebrin
The Canadian Press

The Direction de la santé publique (DSP) in Montreal, however, reports that cases may still be imported by tourists and other visitors and it is still unclear how long the vaccine will remain effective.

Doctors and members of the LGTBQ+ community in Montreal credit the success of controlling monkeypox to the rapid launch of a vaccination campaign and collaboration between public health officials and community organizations.

The DD Geneviève Bergeron, head of health emergencies and infectious diseases at the Montreal DSP, says she is cautiously optimistic. “We’ve definitely seen a big drop in the last few weeks,” she confirmed in a recent interview. “At this point, the last cases we have started their illness at the end of September. »

The Dr Réjean Thomas, president of a clinic specializing in sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections, reports that at the start of the outbreak, his clinic l’Actuel was seeing nearly a dozen people a day who believed they had the disease. Now he sees almost no cases; the virus has completely diminished, has been almost eradicated, he says.

In total, his clinic has treated 125 people with monkeypox – more than a quarter of all cases in Montreal since the first case was detected in the city on May 12.

But the Dr Thomas says the future remains uncertain; he said he recently saw a patient with monkeypox who had been vaccinated in July. “So that’s the big question: how effective will the vaccine be and for how long?” »

The DD Bergeron recalls that studies are underway on the duration of protection offered by Imvamune, a smallpox vaccine that has been approved for use against the virus related to simian pox. The vaccine is offered to anyone who thinks they have been exposed to the virus, as well as those whose sexual contacts may put them at higher risk of contracting the disease.

Public Health officials are now encouraging people who have received a first dose of monkeypox vaccine to get vaccinated a second time. “We know that one dose provides good protection, a second dose provides even better protection,” recalls Geneviève Bergeron.

About 30,000 people have received a dose of a monkeypox vaccine in Quebec. Last week, the national director of public health, the Dr Luc Boileau, said around 6,000 had received a second and only one case had been detected in Quebec in the past two weeks.

But Quebec is not the only place where cases of monkeypox are decreasing. In Ontario, where the trajectory of the disease has followed a similar pattern, the province’s chief medical officer of health said in mid-October that he was considering declaring the outbreak over.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the number of new cases of monkeypox in several countries – including Canada, the UK and Italy – has fallen by more than 50% in the past week. of October compared to the previous week. Several other countries, including France and the United States, have seen smaller declines, but the number of new cases continues to rise in other parts of Europe and parts of Central and South America. South.

The DD Bergeron says the cause of the decline is unclear, but he believes vaccination may have played a role. “We’ve seen overall in Montreal a lower number of cases than other countries and other jurisdictions, so I think the vaccination campaign has helped.”

She points out that public health officials knew there was a high risk of stigmatizing people, and they worked closely with the LGBTQ+ community to craft the messaging around vaccination. If people feared being judged or stigmatized to protect themselves, it would be counterproductive, she says.

Christian Tanguay, executive director of the LGBTQ+ Community Center in Montreal, says that although the experience at the vaccination clinic was like getting a flu shot, he was concerned that people wouldn’t get vaccinated because they were afraid. to be stigmatized as having multiple partners. Seeing three people he knows contract the virus motivated him to get vaccinated quickly and encourage others to do the same.

Christian Tanguay said the outbreak caused real fear and came at a difficult time when life was slowly returning to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic and people wanted to be together again.

Alexandre Dumont Blais, executive director of REZO, an organization that promotes the sexual health of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, thinks members of the LGBTQ+ community believe the epidemic is largely behind them, adding that the number of questions his group receives about the disease has dropped significantly. “We feel much better than a few months ago”.

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