Mpox ‘quiet’ in Alberta but heightened awareness key as cases rise elsewhere, doctors warn

Doctors and health advocates are calling on at-risk Albertans to get their mpox vaccine — in particular their second doses — and stay vigilant as cases tick up in Ontario.

Public health officials in Toronto warned this week that four new cases of the disease, previously known as monkeypox, had been found within 24 hours.

According to Alberta Health, while 43 cases have been confirmed in Alberta so far, no new cases have been identified since mid-November. No one has been hospitalized.

“Mpox has not disappeared. It has gone quiet,” said Dr. John Gill, a Calgary-based infectious disease specialist.

“Vigilance and immunization is important for high-risk groups so they don’t acquire this nasty, unpleasant infection.”

While anyone can contract mpox, gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men have been impacted most.

And, according to Gill, it poses an ongoing threat.

“The travel season is on us. Many people are travelling outside of Calgary and that puts them at risk because not every community is quiet and bringing the infection back with them is certainly a risk, and then it could be spread locally. Fortunately we’re not seeing it yet but we need to remain vigilant.”

John Gill faces the camera, outside along a shoreline.
Dr. John Gill, an infectious disease physician in Calgary, says with many people travelling, mpox cases could rise again in Alberta. (University of Calgary)

Low second dose uptake a worry

According to Alberta Health, 4,513 mpox vaccines have been administered in Alberta so far, including 2,955 first doses and 1,558 second shots.

“We are concerned about the lower number of second doses,” said Nolan Hill, gay men’s health specialist at the Centre for Sexuality, which provides mpox vaccination in Calgary.

According to Hill, there were delays in getting second doses out to eligible Albertans.

“I’m really hopeful that perhaps this new resurgence that we’re seeing — even a small one out of Toronto — is just that reminder to say ‘Maybe I should go get my second dose,’ [and] look into giving AHS a call or even booking in with us to get that vaccine,” said Hill.

Nolan Hill, gay men’s health specialist at the Centre for Sexuality, is worried not enough eligible Albertans are opting to get their second dose of the mpox vaccine. (Submitted by Nolan Hill)

“I would encourage those who are eligible and who believe they could be exposed in the future to get the second dose. It’s free and it works,” added Gill.

Alberta Health said health officials continue to monitor the disease.

“AHS continues to follow up with anyone thought to have been exposed to mpox and is working closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada and local physicians to provide information on symptoms, laboratory testing and diagnosis, infection control precautions, treatment and reporting requirements for mpox,” a spokesperson for the department said in an emailed statement.

For his part, Hill said immunization and public awareness campaigns were a success early on.

But he worries awareness is waning.

“It is that reminder that you can’t necessarily become complacent,” he said.

“We’re still learning about this outbreak … and there could be these changes and re-emergences that could happen in our communities.”

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