SHA alerts public about elevated risk of Monkeypox: expands vaccine eligibility
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has alerted the public to the elevated risk of acquiring Monkeypox through anonymous sexual contact.
“So far we’ve had three cases, who were exposed out of the province,” said Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab.
“We think the situation has changed now, in the last week. Where we have had evidence of exposures happening in Saskatchewan, in many cases happening through anonymous sexual contacts with people who have been coming into the province.”
Shahab noted that the exposures were happening almost exclusively to those in the gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (gbMSM) community.
“We think now that there is a higher risk that we may see ongoing transmission within Saskatchewan … particularly in this community.”
Shahab noted that these trends were similar to what is being seen across Canada. He urged those in Saskatchewan at risk not to hesitate and reach out.
“If you belong to the gbMSM community it’s really important that at the first sign of illness you do contact the Healthline (811) for advice and seek testing and isolate till the diagnosis is made.”
INCREASED ELIGIBILITY FOR VACCINES
The SHA announced that Monkeypox vaccine requirements would be expanded to both post and pre exposure, following the alert.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has set aside 99,000 doses of the vaccine, with 50,000 doses being given to provinces so far, according to Shahab.
Those eligible for vaccinations include select high-risk contacts 18 years and older who are identified ideally within 4 days and up to 14 days after an exposure. Those who are at a high risk of exposure are also eligible. The SHA’s criteria includes:
- Are transgender or self-identify as two spirit, bisexual, gay or men who have sex with men (MSM)
And one or more of the following:
- Have had a recent sexually transmitted infection (in the past six months);
- Report having had two or more sexual partners in the past six months;
- Had (in the past six months) or plan to have sexual contact involving an exchange of money or other goods for sexual services;
- Report having had (in the past six months) or planning to have sexual contact at an event or social gathering where there is MSM-themed sexual activity (sauna, bath house, club);
- Have had (in the past six months) or plan to have sexual contact with an anonymous partner (at an event or via a hook-up app);
- Planning to travel in the next three months to an area in Canada or internationally currently reporting monkeypox cases;
- Individuals 18 years and older who work or volunteer at an event or social gathering where there is MSM themed sexual activity (sauna, bath house, club).
The SHA has outlined how to properly isolate and protect others while contagious with Monkeypox on its website.
Monkeypox is a rare viral illness that causes fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes and lethargy, followed by the development of a rash over a person’s body. The disease is not easily spread from person to person according to the SHA. Monkeypox is spread through:
- Close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact.
- Touching bodily fluids or lesions of a person who is sick with the disease.
- Exposure to contaminated objects such as bed linens or clothing.
There are currently around 30,000 Monkeypox cases globally, with approximately 1,000 of those occurring in Canada.
Saskatchewan’s current criteria for vaccination and its overall approach has been informed by other provincial responses such as in Ontario and Quebec, according to Shahab.
“We really hope that by this approach in Saskatchewan we can try to avert a quick or high surge of cases and also prevent further transmission.”
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