Toronto bathhouse workers among first to be offered monkeypox vaccine

A concerted effort is now underway to curb the spread of monkeypox in Toronto.

Starting tomorrow, the first of several community-based vaccine clinics will be held in the city. This initial clinic will specifically be for workers at Toronto bathhouses.

Run by Toronto Public Health (TPH) in partnership with Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance (GMSH) and other community organizations, the goal of this program is to offer protection to those who have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for monkeypox, those with high risk contacts, and those who have a higher risk of being exposed to the virus.

On June 10, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released interim guidance on use of the Imvamune vaccine in the context of monkeypox outbreaks. Health Canada approved this vaccine against smallpox, monkeypox, and other related orthopox viruses in 2020 for individuals 18 years old and older.

As of Friday, there were 11 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Toronto.

Monkeypox is a virus that spreads through contact with body fluids, including monkeypox lesions, contaminated clothing or bedding, or through respiratory droplets following prolonged face-to-face contact. It can also be transmitted through bites or scratches from infected animals.

“Anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can spread monkeypox through contact with body fluids, monkeypox sores or by sharing contaminated items,” TPH said in a June 12 news release.

“However, during this outbreak, in a number of countries, gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men have been affected.”

Symptoms may include a lesion or rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes. Rashes or lesions often appears within a few days after symptoms start, begging on the face and spreading to other parts of the body. Most people recover from monkeypox on their own without treatment, the city said.

Anyone who develops any of signs or symptoms of monkeypox is urged to report them to their health care provider as soon as possible.

Toronto Public Health, which is working closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Public Health Ontario, and the Ontario Ministry of Health, is following up with anyone believed to be exposed to the virus. The heath unit is also communicating with local physicians to provide them with info on symptoms, laboratory testing and diagnosis, infection control precautions, treatment and reporting requirements.

Anyone who comes in close contact with a person suspected or confirmed to be infected with monkeypox infection should monitor for symptoms for 21 days after their last exposure. If symptoms develop, they are advised to self-isolate, seek care, and get tested.

Some of the ways to lower your risk of contracting monkeypox include maintaining physical distance, frequent hand washing, and respiratory hygiene, including masking. Common household disinfectants can also kill the monkeypox virus.

Visit the City of Toronto’s monkeypox web page for more information or contact TPH’s Health Connections online or at 416-338-7600. People can also find more details about monkeypox on the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website or GMSH’s website. 

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