Health care professionals at the forefront of the possible arrival of monkeypox in Montreal say it is too early to know how far the virus has spread.
The center’s founder, Dr. Regine Thomas, said some potentially infected patients have come to the L’Actual clinic for treatment. It may take several days to confirm whether they have the virus, which is difficult to diagnose on the spot.
Thomas said his staff is an unlikely first line of defense against viruses in the same family as Variola, which causes smallpox. This is because l’Actuel is a clinic that treats sexually transmitted infections.
“I had never heard of this disease 24 hours ago,” Thomas said. “The nurse told me ‘we have no education’.”
A closer look at the common symptoms (which can be unsightly) can explain why people in l’actuel are seeking answers for their newly emerged disease.
Thomas says the first person suspected of being positive came to his clinic with symptoms associated with syphilis, which causes a rash on the palms and feet. On Thursday evening, Quebec’s health ministry confirmed the first two cases of the disease in the province and said 20 other suspected cases were under investigation.
The symptoms of monkeypox, as he presented on this patient, occur “more commonly on the legs”. [spread out],” They said.
Monkeypox, which is not an STI, can be spread through sex or any activity that involves close contact with others. Symptoms may include swollen lymph nodes, rashes elsewhere on the body, as well as fever, headache, and tiredness.
The virus enters the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract, or through the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Since early May, a handful of potentially infected people have visited his clinic. For each of them, approaching a diagnosis has been a challenge.
“It can look like syphilis, it can look like shingles, it’s very difficult to diagnose,” Thomas said.
It is too early to determine where those potential cases came from. Thomas said some of his patients are traveling, others are not. Some have multiple sexual partners, others do not.
Thankfully all suspected cases are quite mild, he said. There is little risk of spreading among employees, who still follow strict COVID-19 preventive measures.
fear of stigma
Thomas said that not only is the health of his patients on his mind. L’Actuel lives in a gay village in Montreal, and many of her patients are members of the LGBTQ2S+ community.
“They are quite stressed about that disease,” he said. “They’re quite concerned about the stigma that’s going to happen.”
Those who contract the disease in Montreal are believed to be mainly men between the ages of 30 and 55 who have had sex with other men.
Everyone is at risk of getting monkeypox, but Thomas said he is terrified that if it continues to spread, it could fuel homophobic misinformation.
“I was there at the beginning of AIDS,” he continued. “I remember learning with the patients … we had no idea at the time.”
He is not only concerned about the stigma.
“Just because it happened to gay men, doesn’t mean it can’t happen to heterosexuals. [people],” said Dr. Robert Pilarsky. He specializes in STIs at the La Licorn Clinic, where other possible monkeypox cases have been reported. “It is not a homosexual disease; Anyone can have it.”
“We don’t want to stigmatize any segment of the population,” Montreal public health physician Dr. Genevieve Bergeron said during a Thursday morning press conference.
“What we’re concerned about is prolonged close contact, [which] Can happen in any kind of setting.”