Table of contents

Overview

Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with Monkeypox virus. The virus is related to the smallpox virus, but typically causes less serious disease. Most cases of monkeypox to-date have occurred in individuals living in Central and West Africa. In the past, limited cases had been identified in other countries but never in Canada.

Starting in May 2022, monkeypox cases are being identified in countries where it is not typically found. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has now confirmed cases in Canada, including Alberta, but the risk to the general public is considered low.

Signs and symptoms

Monkeypox infection is usually a mild illness that resolves without treatment. Most people recover within several weeks, however severe illness can occur in some individuals.

Signs and symptoms can vary and do not always present in order. The illness may also not present the same in every case.

The risk for the general public, including children, is low. At this time, no monkeypox cases have been reported among children in Canada. Children presenting with rash illness would not be considered to be at risk for monkeypox unless they have a known close contact exposure to a confirmed case, for example a household member. They should be investigated for more common causes of rash.

Symptoms

Symptoms can develop 5 to 21 days after exposure to the virus and generally begin with:

  • fever
  • chills
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • joint pain
  • back pain
  • exhaustion

Rash

Within one to 3 days after the fever starts, a rash may start on the face and then spread elsewhere on the body. In some cases, the rash may occur without flu-like symptoms or flu-like symptoms may occur after the rash appears. The rash can affect:

  • mucous membranes in the mouth, tongue and genital area
  • palms of hands
  • soles of the feet

The rash can last for 2 to 4 weeks and goes through different stages before the scabs fall off from skin discoloration to sore to scabs.

If you think you have monkeypox

  • Testing for people with symptoms is available.
  • Call HealthLink at 811 or your healthcare provider for advice.
  • Advise healthcare providers before your arrival so they can put precautions in place.
  • Take steps to avoid spreading monkeypox:
    • isolate and avoid direct physical contact with others until all sores/skin rashes have healed and new skin has formed
    • practice good hand hygiene to remove any infectious material from the hands and prevent spread
    • wear a mask if you have to be around others
    • avoid contact with animals (including pets)

Causes

Monkeypox is caused by infection with the Monkeypox virus. It does not spread easily between people, but may occur through:

  • direct physical contact, including sexual contact, and contact with monkeypox
    skin lesions or scabs
  • prolonged exposure to respiratory droplets of an individual infected with monkeypox
  • contact with contaminated materials used by an infected person, such as clothing, bedding or towels

Monkeypox can spread to others from the time symptoms start until the scabs fall off and new skin can be seen, usually 2 to 4 weeks. Scabs contain virus that can spread the illness to others, and should be carefully disposed of.

Treatment and prevention

Most people recover from monkeypox without treatment. Some people with more serious illness may require hospitalization and supportive care.

Treatment

Treatment options may be available to those at risk of severe illness. Call HealthLink at 811 if you think you were exposed to a case of monkeypox.

  • A limited supply of an antiviral drug is available for severe cases after specialist consultation.
  • A limited amount of a vaccine called IMVAMUNE is available in Alberta that provides some protection against monkeypox. If given shortly after exposure to monkeypox, it may prevent infection or reduce the severity of illness if infection does occur.

Prevention

To protect yourself and prevent monkeypox:

  • avoid skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact with anyone who has symptoms
  • minimize the number of sexual partners you have while the monkeypox outbreak is ongoing is the safest approach
  • clean hands, objects and surfaces that have been touched regularly
  • don’t share personal items with others
  • wear a mask if you are in close proximity with someone who has symptoms

International travel

Public Health Agency of Canada issued a level 2 travel health notice for monkeypox for affected countries.

Check for active advisories for your travel destination before you travel outside of Alberta or Canada.

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