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No known cases of monkeypox in B.C. following investigation

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says two potential contacts have been ruled out.
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam says the monkeypox virus infection is not easily passed between people and requires close contact.

Update as of Friday (May 20) at 2 p.m.: The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says it is not investigating any suspected cases or possible contacts of monkeypox in the province after having ruled out two potential contacts.**

Canada's top doctor has confirmed that a couple of British Columbians are being investigated for the monkeypox virus. 

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters in a press briefing Friday morning (May 20) that just under a "couple dozen" individuals are being investigated by local authorities, mainly in Quebec.

The doctor added that "a couple of contacts are being followed up in British Columbia" but that only two cases have been confirmed in the country (both cases are in Quebec). 

"There are samples under processing at the National Microbiology Lab as we speak. So we might expect to hear more confirmations in the upcoming hours and days," she explained. 

"Local authorities are still doing their case contact tracing. So we don't really know the extent to which the spread has occurred in Canada."

The individuals who are suspected of having monkeypox are not connected to travel to Africa, which is unusual, Tam said. And while Canada has not confirmed the current strain of monkeypox, other countries have identified the West African clade.

Vaccines for monkeypox virus 

The vaccines under review were "essentially developed for the protection against smallpox," noted Tam. "Using both immunogenicity, looking at the generation of immune response, and animal studies."

Tam noted, however, that there hasn't been a clinical trial of the vaccines against the monkeypox virus itself. "But I think based on what we know globally, the smallpox vaccines can be applied to monkeypox. In particular, there is one that has monkeypox included in its labelling."

Canada has a limited supply of these vaccines but cannot disclose the amount for security reasons. 

Monkeypox comes from the same family of viruses as smallpox. Most people recover from monkeypox within weeks, but the disease is fatal for up to 1 in 10 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

How much of a risk does the rare virus pose in B.C.? An expert weighs in.

With files from The Canadian Press.