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Toronto Public Health urges people to get vaccinated against mpox amidst rising cases

A health-care worker prepares a syringe filled with the mpox vaccine in Montreal. Toronto Public Health is advising eligible Torontonians to get vaccinated against mpox amidst rising cases in the city this year.  (Christinne Muschi/Reuters - image credit)
A health-care worker prepares a syringe filled with the mpox vaccine in Montreal. Toronto Public Health is advising eligible Torontonians to get vaccinated against mpox amidst rising cases in the city this year. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters - image credit)

Toronto Public Health (TPH) is advising people to get vaccinated against mpox amidst an increase in confirmed cases of the virus in the city this year.

Twenty-one cases of mpox, previously known as monkeypox, have been reported in Toronto this year, TPH said in a news release on Wednesday.

This is an increase from 2023, where 27 cases were reported for the entire year, according to the news release.

Mpox is a virus that spreads from person to person through contact with infected lesions, skin blisters, body fluids or respiratory secretions, TPH said.

The virus has "spread mostly between people who have had close/intimate or sexual contact with a person who has the virus — with gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men being most affected," TPH said.

None of the current cases in the city were fully vaccinated, TPH said.

Eligible people who have not been vaccinated are encouraged to get their first vaccine dose as soon as possible, with the second dose prescribed 28 days later, the news release said.

The vaccine is free of charge and does not require an OHIP card, TPH said. People are advised to ask about vaccine availability when accessing sexual health care.

Full vaccine eligibility requirements can be found on the City of Toronto website.

Mpox symptoms can start five to 21 days after exposure, and include fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes, the news release said.

"These symptoms are followed by a rash or blisters and lesions on the skin that can be painful including around the genitals," TPH said.

Mpox cases not a public health emergency: doctor

The uptick in mpox cases is not a public health emergency, said Rita Shahin, associate medical officer of health with Toronto Public Health.

"We're not looking at a public health emergency," she said. "We're really seeing a small increase in cases."

Confirmed cases this year are nowhere near numbers from 2022, Shahin said, when the city saw over 500 cases of mpox.

The increase in mpox cases in Toronto is not a public health emergency, said Rita Shahin, associate medical officer of health with Toronto Public Health.
The increase in mpox cases in Toronto is not a public health emergency, said Rita Shahin, associate medical officer of health with Toronto Public Health.

The increase in mpox cases in Toronto is not a public health emergency, said Rita Shahin, associate medical officer of health with Toronto Public Health. (Zoom)

"I don't think we're going to be seeing the same kind of explosive case numbers that we saw in 2022, because many of the individuals have had at least one dose," Shahin said.

However, she said people are advised to get their second dose as well.

Shahin said the virus is circulating locally in the city, with only two travel related cases confirmed this year.

"We would like to remind people who are eligible of the importance of getting vaccinated," she said.

The risk of getting mpox is not the same for everybody in Toronto, as the majority of cases are among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital.

This time period is an era of "emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases," including mpox, COVID-19 and measles, said Isaac Bogoch, infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital.
This time period is an era of "emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases," including mpox, COVID-19 and measles, said Isaac Bogoch, infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital.

This time period is an era of 'emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases,' including mpox, COVID-19 and measles, says Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital. (Zoom)

"The men who have sex with men community has been heroic in their efforts to educate the local community and to help guide the public health response," Bogoch said.

He described this time period as "an era of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases," citing the recent rise in measles cases, as well as COVID-19 and both the Zika and Ebola epidemics.

"Many of these [diseases] are preventable," he said. "We can take steps to prevent infection or mitigate severity of infection."