In the wake of the United States’ declaration of monkeypox as a public health emergency Thursday, questions are being raised about whether Canada should follow suit as the number of cases continues to rise.
The US move follows a similar announcement late last month by the World Health Organization that declared monkeypox a global health emergency — and in both cases, these developments are driving more attention and, in the US, more money and other resources to fight the virus. to fight.
Monkeypox – US declares state of emergency for health during outbreak
dr. Don Vinh, an infectious disease specialist at McGill University Health Centre, says he believes Canada, as a member state of the WHO, has an obligation to follow suit now that the UN agency has declared the monkeypox outbreak a global emergency. field of public health. concern.
“We have to respond accordingly,” he said. “I think formally declaring emergency aid helps some sort of pastoral or steering administration, which may be a little ambivalent.”
Such a statement in Canada would not look like the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the most recent event to trigger a Canadian declaration of a health emergency, he said.
dr. Fauci welcomes monkey pox emergency declaration, considers way forward
But he said it could lead to a deployment of additional resources that would be helpful to those fighting the virus where it’s spreading in Canada now — and prevent it from becoming more difficult to contain in the future.
Monkeypox has declared a global emergency. Are travel barriers necessary?
“We now have an opportunity where we have some control,” Vinh said.
“I think what we’ve seen with COVID is that, if we have some sort of hodgepodge of this – some cities or counties do it one way and others do it another – we lose our chance of losing control. .”
Canada confirmed 931 cases of monkeypox on Aug. 5, up from 890 two days earlier, according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Ontario is now leading the country in number of cases, taking over from Montreal, which was until recently the hot spot for the virus in Canada.
The number of cases is higher in the US with more than 6,600 people infected with the zoonosis that had never been seen outside of Central and West Africa until recent months.
Canada’s monkey pox response
State governments and the Biden administration have been criticized for their slow response to the outbreak in the US, with clinics in major cities like New York and San Francisco saying they haven’t received enough of the dual vaccine to meet demand, and some had to stop offering the second dose to ensure delivery of the first doses.
Monkeypox: New York’s 2nd Major City to Declare a State of Emergency as Cases Spread Across the US
Canada has not undergone the same investigation and, according to experts, can be commended for having acted quickly to deal with the outbreaks, especially in Toronto and Montreal – the two main areas of infection in the country.
The Canadian response has been particularly effective in targeting the population most affected to date – men who have sex with men – ensuring quick and easy access to vaccines and education about the virus from trusted sources. in their communities, says Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital.
Therefore, an emergency declaration may not matter much, except perhaps in technical terms, he said.
“We’ve treated this as an emergency,” Bogoch said.
Monkeypox now a global health threat. But the risk isn’t necessarily higher in Canada, experts say:
“We had a very relatively rapid, but very coordinated response going on and other places didn’t do that to the same extent.”
However, there is still room for improvement in Canada, especially in lowering barriers to care, testing and diagnostic capacity and expanding access to preventive measures such as vaccines, Bogoch added.
“But we are doing well compared to other places. We really are.”
Asked if Canada was on the verge of declaring a public health emergency on Thursday, a PHAC official said Canada “recognizes WHO’s determination and recognizes that the global monkeypox outbreak requires an urgent global response.” and stressed that the federal government has treated monkeypox as a priority ever since. the beginning of the outbreak in May.
Questions to the office of Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos asking whether the government is considering an emergency declaration were deferred to PHAC.
The agency has deployed more than 80,000 doses of Imvamune vaccine in provinces and territories and supports decentralized testing by providing control materials and protocols to lab partners across the country, PHAC said in a statement.
‘I just think it’s the right thing to do’: Albertans book monkeypox vaccine appointments
“PHAC also continues to work closely with international, provincial and territorial health partners to gather information about this evolving outbreak and determine the best course of action to stop the spread of monkeypox in Canada,” said Anna Maddison, a spokeswoman for PHAC , in a statement. an email to Global News.
“Canada will also continue to work with WHO and international partners to strengthen the global response to the current monkeypox outbreak.”
While the true number of cases in Canada remains lower than that in the US, the per capita infection rate is higher in Canada than south of the border, which is a data point to keep in mind, says Dr. Sameer Elsayed, an infectious disease physician and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Western University.
Therefore, he says it might be reasonable for Canada to consider declaring monkeypox a public health emergency in the near future, especially if the number of cases continues to rise at the current rate, he said.
Monkeypox – Canada’s top doctor urges at-risk groups to get vaccinated as cases mount
But with such a statement, it would be necessary to put resources and additional money into this virus for things like vaccine clinics, contact tracing, testing, education and other measures, Elsayed said.
At a time when health systems in every province and territory are faced with what virtually every health professional has termed a “crisis” in staffing and resources, Elsayed says he believes a health care emergency declaration in Canada, more broadly, is more urgent and should go hand in hand with such an explanation for a single virus.
That way, more resources and a greater sense of urgency would go to many parts of the health system that are crumbling under the weight of massive care backlogs, patient increases and a mass exodus of health workers across the country, he said.
“We don’t have enough money in the system. So we need money for monkey pox, but we also need money for other ailments,” Elsayed said.
“It would be reasonable to declare a state of emergency, but only if we declare a state of emergency for our health care system in general which is in shambles.”
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.