The suspected case of monkeypox in New Brunswick ended up not being one, according to the Department of Health.
Minister Dorothy Shephard said on Wednesday that a first suspected case of monkeypox had been identified in New Brunswick. The test result was negative, we learned on Friday.
According to Public Health, the person suspected of contracting the disease sought medical advice for another problem unrelated to this disease. She also mentioned that she had experienced some symptoms in the past.
Specimens were collected for laboratory testing and no monkeypox was found in this individual.
“However, since these samples were not taken when symptoms were present, we cannot rule out monkeypox with certainty,” said Michelle Guénard, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health.
She explains that Public Health contacted the person and her close contact to advise them to be on the lookout for symptoms and report them immediately.
“The risk to the public from this suspected case is very low.”
Health Minister Dorothy Shephard also calls for calm. She’s not worried.
“We believe there are no other cases in the province. Public health will continue to monitor this.”
According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox is similar in characteristics to smallpox, a related virus that was declared globally eradicated in 1980. Monkeypox is less contagious than smallpox and causes milder illness.
Clinically, monkeypox usually presents with fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes and can lead to a number of medical complications.
The infection occurs mainly in the tropical rainforest regions of Central and West Africa.
No human-to-human transmission of the disease has been observed in the country, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Provinces and territories have publicly reported 58 cases of monkeypox as of June 2.
A “strange” communication
The Public Health spokeswoman says that going forward, Public Health will only report cases of monkeypox when they are confirmed.
Public Health did not initially report this suspected case publicly. Rather, it was Secretary Dorothy Shephard who spontaneously mentioned this during Wednesday’s Question Time.
Our questions to the Ministry of Health on Wednesday and Thursday went unanswered. Just last Friday, on Radio-Canada Acadie’s La Matinale, Dr. Yves Léger, acting deputy chief medical officer, announced that the result was negative.
He could not be reached for an interview during the day on Friday.
David Coon, leader of the Greens, finds it “strange” that the minister mentioned the suspected case when answering a question in the assembly.
“Once again, we have a problem with the government’s poor communication on an important public health issue in New Brunswick. What’s happening?”
He would have preferred the government to organize a conference to inform the population to avoid possible false rumors and provide information about the disease.
“I have dr. Léger talk about it on the radio this morning, but we have to organize a press conference to say to ourselves: ‘Here is what it is, here we are in NB and here is how we can take protective measures if it is going to be to the problem.”
According to the health minister, public health was informed of the negative result before Friday.
“I think we got the negative result (Thursday) in the morning. I guess – it could have been the day before, late. It was after my comment in the room (Wednesday),” she told reporters.
During Question Time, Liberal MP Guy Arseneault criticized him for not informing the public earlier.
“Even though she knew it wasn’t conclusive, she didn’t come back into the bedroom and didn’t go public. She created fear in NB and she did not suppress that fear. We only heard it on the radio (…) Why doesn’t the Secretary of New Brunswickers inform herself as she normally should? It is his responsibility.”
“All I can say is that all the relevant information is there. Public health workers have done their job in an exemplary manner,” the minister countered, adding that the opposition was just trying to make headlines.
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