Yesterday, Wednesday, Jul. 13, 2022, Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health detected the first lab-confirmed case of monkeypox in our region. Today, Thursday, Jul. 14, 2022, Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health (MOH) for KFL&A Public Health made his first general press appearance since May 13, 2022, to discuss the circumstances of the case and reassure the public that there is little to fear from monkeypox.
The monkeypox virus has been circulating in Ontario for a few months now, according to Oglaza, so KFL&A Public Health was prepared for the arrival of the virus in the region.
And although the community the affected person lives in cannot be publicly identified for privacy reasons, Oglaza assured the gathered press that the individual will continue to isolate and be supported until they have recovered, and that all close contacts of the infected patient have been notified.
“Monkeypox is spread through close contact with someone with rashes or lesions,” explained the MOH. “[Close contact can] include sexual contact, but can also include hugging, skin-to skin-contact while dancing, or sharing contaminated clothing and bedding. It can also happen through droplets over a prolonged period, such as among people who live in the same house.”
“The risk to the public at this time is low,” he stated. “Residents should not be concerned going about their everyday activities in the community.”
[Monkeypox] is most contagious while the patient is symptomatic, Oglaza explained, but early symptoms are non-specific and flu-like: swollen lymph nodes, fever and chills, muscle aches, headaches, and exhaustion.
In the later stages, symptoms may include rash, mouth blisters, or skin lesions, he said. “The fluid from the skin lesions is also infectious. So, there are different stages in which the virus can be contagious, but typically it’s from individuals who are symptomatic. The early stages of the infection might be harder to identify because, again, the symptoms are very nonspecific and could be mistaken for cold-like symptoms.”
Oglaza emphasized that anyone who experiences symptoms should contact their health care provider as soon as possible. Symptoms are often manageable, and individuals typically recover within two to four weeks. Most people recover on their own without treatment.
Also, close contacts of people suspected or confirmed to have a monkeypox infection are advised to self-monitor for symptoms for 21 days after their last exposure. If they develop symptoms, they should self-isolate, seek care, and get tested.
The Ministry of Health currently makes vaccines available to high-risk groups in communities where transmission is occurring (pre-exposure prophylaxis). People who have had close contact with confirmed cases will be contacted by Public Health to arrange for post-exposure vaccination.
Oglaza assured the public that KFL&A Public Health has communicated with local physicians to provide information on symptoms, laboratory testing and diagnosis, infection control precautions, treatment, and reporting requirements for monkeypox.
Fourth doses of COVID-19 Vaccine
Regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, Oglaza said, “The province announced the expansion of the fourth doses [of COVID-19 vaccine] and, starting today, provincial eligibility will open or is open to those 18 years of age and older who received their third dose a minimum of 84 days ago.” He reminded the public that a five-month interval between the third and fourth dose is optimal, though eligibility opens up after 84 days.
“This is a very diverse population (18 to 59-year-olds),” he pointed out, “and we understand there’s a difference between someone who is otherwise healthy and already received their three doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and those who might have some other underlying health conditions. So [we are asking] anyone who is 18 years of age and older with any underlying illness to consider coming forward for their fourth dose or booster to further protect themselves.”
He also pointed out that those who choose to receive a booster in July will be eligible for another booster in November, as it is expected that COVID-19 activity may begin to increase again in the fall.
Oglaza also encouraged young, otherwise healthy individuals to get a July dose if they care for vulnerable individuals, rather than putting it off until the fall.
One point of clarification had to do with individuals who had recently contracted and tested positive for the virus.
If an individual has had a bout of COVID-19, they should defer the booster for at least three months, the doctor explained. “That’s because we want to maximize the impact of that booster, and we know that following infection, especially if there was infection and previous immunization, hybrid immunity still is really strong and holds for some period of time. So, we will maximize and extend our protection as much as possible if we defer that booster for at least three months.”