Monkeypox spread may be slowing in Canada, health official says

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Monkeypox vaccination clinic run by CIUSSS public health authorities in Montreal

OTTAWA (Reuters) - There are early signs that the spread of monkeypox infections are starting to slow down in Canada, but it was "too soon to tell" whether cases had plateaued, chief public health officer Theresa Tam said on Friday.

"The cases are not increasing at the speed at which they were increasing at the beginning of the outbreak and so we will just keep monitoring that trend in the next number of weeks," Tam told reporters at a briefing.

Monkeypox spreads via close contact and tends to cause flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions; people generally recover from it within two to four weeks, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

More than 80 countries where monkeypox is not endemic have reported outbreaks of the viral disease. Last month, the WHO declared monkeypox a "public health emergency of international concern," seeking to trigger a coordinated international response and unlock funding to collaborate on vaccines and treatments.

Canada has said it is in a good position to handle the outbreak thanks to stored vaccines for smallpox, which is closely related monkeypox.

As of Friday, 99,000 doses of Bavarian Nordic's Imvamune vaccine had been deployed to Canadian provinces and territories available to people most at risk of getting infected.

Canada had recorded 1,059 cases of monkeypox by Wednesday.

Public health agencies have stressed that although in many countries the outbreaks are concentrated among men who have sex with men, anyone can contract the virus through prolonged close contact or from particles on items such as bedding or towels.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Aurora Ellis)