The Yukon government will not be publicly declaring monkeypox case numbers as the virus has started to affect the country.
In an Aug. 4 release, territorial chief medical officer of health Dr. Sudit Ranade said the department of Health and Social Services will not be announcing suspected or confirmed cases of monkeypox, as well as the case location and any demographic or identifiable information.
In an email statement, a department spokesperson explained that Yukon Communicable Disease Control and the Public Health Agency of Canada have a standardized reporting practise for communicable diseases and confirmed monkeypox cases are being updated on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Senior advisor Matt Davidson said that when the territory’s disease control centre and the chief medical officer of health are notified of a confirmed case of a communicable disease in the Yukon, “their immediate priority is to connect with the person who has been exposed to determine who else might be exposed, how contacts can be managed and how those affected can be supported.”
“The obligation to publicly report communicable diseases must also be balanced with the protection of individual privacy,” Davidson said.
“Where appropriate, Yukon Communicable Disease Control and the chief medical officer of health notify and work directly with members or leaders of impacted communities or groups who might be at greater risk of exposure due to environmental, socioeconomic or health-related reasons.”
On the website, the federal agency is gathering epidemiological information reported by the provinces and territories in order to figure out the national scope of the investigation and to determine potential health risks to people in Canada. Provinces and territories will be reporting case numbers to the federal agency to be included in the national investigation. The federal agency’s webpage will be updated with the latest case numbers each week.
The World Health Organization has deemed the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern,” after more than 16,000 laboratory-confirmed cases were seen in 75 countries around the globe, according to the latest situation report released July 25.
One case has been confirmed so far in the territory, with 889 other cases reported in five provinces as of Aug. 3, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s dashboard.
In the release, Ranade said the department’s public health branch and the territory’s disease control centre are working with the health system and partners to make Yukoners aware of the risk factors associated with monkeypox, perform routine case and contact management and to provide people with the latest information about preventing transmission.
“Monkeypox is rarely fatal and usually causes mild disease that resolves within two to four weeks. For some people, the symptoms can be challenging to manage, and can include fever, headache, fatigue, sore throat, cough, and a painful skin rash,” Ranade said.
“Educating Yukoners and increasing awareness of risk factors is an important part of the territory’s prevention strategy. Anyone can be exposed and infected from close, skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact. Monkeypox may also spread by prolonged contact with contaminated surfaces like bedding or clothing.”
The statement indicates that while vaccination will support the territory’s response to the disease, the current supply of vaccines is “extremely limited.”
Furthermore, the statement goes on, the ability of vaccines to reduce and prevent monkeypox transmission remains unknown, and there is limited evidence for the use of vaccine to reduce symptoms in people who have been exposed or who have risk factors for exposure.
To reduce the risk of severe disease, some contacts of a known case may be given access to vaccines in the territory, depending on the level of exposure.
“Early reports of monkeypox spread in Canada show an association with the queer community, specifically through close, skin-to-skin contact between men. However, anyone can be exposed and infected, regardless of their sexuality or gender. At this time, monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI),” reads the statement.
“Unfairly stigmatizing any group causes harm and could delay infection prevention and control efforts.”
Ranade said stigmatization will make it more difficult to identify, treat and manage cases.
“If you’re not feeling well, limit close contact with others,” he said.
“If you develop a rash or lesions, avoid all skin-to-skin contact, keep that area of your body covered, and contact your health care provider, health-care centre or the emergency room to be assessed. If you’re unsure, call 811.”
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