Due to “clusters of monkeypox cases” that have been reported in countries worldwide, The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is warning Canadians to be extra careful while travelling abroad.
Canada’s public health agency issued a travel notice on Tuesday (June 7) as cases of the monkeypox virus continue to spread in destinations.
The Government of Canada’s new “level 2” travel warning, which is one grade below a call to avoid non-essential travel, applies to several countries, including the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany.
It indicates “an increased risk” to travellers or certain groups (such as pregnant women, campers or people visiting friends and relatives).
“Enhanced health precautions"
PHAC, therefore, is advising travellers to practice “enhanced health precautions.”
This may include the use of personal protective equipment, delaying travel until risk is lower, additional recommended vaccinations for some groups and avoiding higher-risk activities, PHAC says.
“Clusters of monkeypox cases have been reported in several countries internationally, outside of areas in Central and West Africa where cases are normally found,” PHAC wrote on Tuesday. “The occurrence of cases with no direct travel to those areas, or without established links to a traveller from those areas, is unusual.”
In the current outbreak, those at risk of infection are those who have “had close or intimate contact” with a person infected with monkeypox, PHAC said.
Canadians may also have limited access to timely and appropriate health care, should they become ill, and could experience delays returning to the country, PHAC warned.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox, a disease caused by a virus, spreads primarily through close contact with the virus on other humans or objects, such as bed linens.
While it can be fatal, it is most often not, causing symptoms such as fever, headache and muscle aches, and pox-like lesions or scabs on the skin (which may resemble chickenpox).
Symptoms of monkeypox can begin 5 to 21 days after exposure, PHAC says, and can include fever, chills, swelling of the lymph nodes, headache, rashes and muscle pains.
In addition to wearing a face mask and washing hands frequently, PHAC advises travellers to be “particularly vigilant if you are planning to attend a large party or mass gathering while travelling.”
“Individuals engaging with new or multiple sexual partners should be particularly vigilant,” PHAC added.
Since May, more than 700 cases of monkeypox have been found in non-endemic countries, primarily in Europe, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Monkeypox in Canada
“Anyone, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, could get infected and spread the virus if they come into close contact, including intimate sexual contact with an infected person or a contaminated object,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, told media last Friday (June 10).
Canada has confirmed at least 97 cases of monkeypox in Canada, with 90 in Quebec, five in Ontario, one in Alberta and one in British Columbia.
PHAC is advising Canadian travellers to monitor their health while abroad.
“If you develop symptoms that could be due to monkeypox when you are travelling or after your return, see a health care professional and avoid contact with others. Tell them where you have been travelling or living,” PHAC says.
Travellers who think they have symptoms of monkeypox during a flight should notify their flight attendant before they land or the border services officer as they enter the country, PHAC added.
“They will notify a quarantine officer who can assess your symptoms,” PHAC said.
The U.S. CDC also ramped up its alert level for monkeypox on Tuesday as the United States case count hit 30 and the global case count rose above 1,000.
The American health agency is advising travellers to be mindful of approaching sick people, but noted that the risk to the general public remained low.