Monkeypox Virus

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus. Monkeypox can cause a rash, which may look like pimples or blisters, and sometimes can cause a flu-like illness.

At this time, there have been no confirmed cases of monkeypox in our district. Locally, the risk of contracting monkeypox remains very low and there is no evidence of the virus circulating.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox infection?

Symptoms of monkeypox typically include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, low energy, muscle aches and skin rash or lesions. The rash usually begins within one to three days after other symptoms. However, in some cases, the rash is the first symptom. Lesions can be flat or slightly raised, filled with clear or yellowish fluid, and can then crust, dry up and fall off. Monkeypox symptoms can start within five to 21 days after exposure to monkeypox, but usually appear in six to 13 days. Symptoms can last between two and four weeks. Generally, most people recover on their own after a few weeks.

Someone infected with the monkeypox virus is contagious from the start of their first symptom until all of their scabs have fallen off and new intact skin has formed below the scab.

Click here for instructions about what to do if you develop symptoms.

How does the monkeypox virus spread?

This infection can spread from a symptomatic person with the virus to others through 

  • close contact with respiratory droplets from breathing, talking, coughing, or sneezing
  • skin-to-skin contact with lesions, blisters, or rashes 
  • contact with bodily fluids, such as saliva
  • contact with objects, fabrics (such as bedding and towels), or surfaces used by someone who is infected with the virus.

People can lower their risk of exposure to monkeypox by maintaining physical distance and employing frequent hand and respiratory hygiene, including masking.

Monkeypox vaccine and eligibility

Imvamune® vaccine is approved in Canada for protection against monkeypox, smallpox, and other orthopoxvirus-related illnesses. The vaccine contains weakened virus and cannot make you sick. The vaccine can be used for protection against monkeypox before getting exposed to the virus (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – PrEP) or after being exposed (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis – PEP). It is not used as a treatment if you already have monkeypox. At this time, one dose of the monkeypox vaccine (Imvamune®) can be given to eligible people, following the Ontario Ministry of Health guidelines.

If you have been exposed to monkeypox, you may be eligible for vaccination (Imvamune® Post-Exposure Prophylaxis – PEP). Contact THU at 705-647-4305 or 1-866-747-4305. We will assess the risk of your exposure to confirm your eligibility.

If you have not been exposed to monkeypox, you may be eligible for vaccination (Imvamune® Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – PrEP). Anyone who self-identifies as belonging to the gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) community AND self-identifies at least one of the following criteria is eligible:

  • Has received a diagnosis of a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) (for example, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis) in the past two months 
  • Has had two or more sexual partners in the past 21 days, or may be planning to have two or more sexual partners 
  • Has attended a venue for sexual contact within the past 21 days (for example, bath houses, sex clubs), may be planning to attend a venue for sexual contact, or works or volunteers in these settings
  • Has had anonymous sex in the past 21 days (for example, using hookup apps) or may
    be planning to have anonymous sex
  • Engages in sex work or may be planning to, and their sexual contacts.

People who are immunocompromised, pregnant, or breastfeeding may be at higher risk for severe illness from a monkeypox infection. These people should contact THU for consideration of PrEP if they are at risk for contracting monkeypox.

If you are eligible, contact the Timiskaming Health Unit (THU) at 705-647-4305 or 1-866-747-4305 for information about how to get vaccinated.

What should I do if I’ve been in contact with someone who has monkeypox?

If you have been in contact with someone who has monkeypox, contact THU at 705-647-4305 or 1-866-747-4305. We’ll provide information about vaccination and the steps that you should take to protect others.

Monitor for signs and symptoms of monkeypox for 21 days from the day of your last exposure to the person with suspected or confirmed monkeypox. Consider wearing a mask (medical mask preferred) when you are in indoors with other people. 

Where can I find more information?