Montreal public health officials said on Thursday they are investigating 17 suspected cases of monkeypox virus infections, adding to the growing number of cases of the rare virus reported globally.
Several countries including Portugal and Spain have reported cases of monkeypox in recent weeks, with a US case identified by Massachusetts public health officials on Wednesday in a man who had recently traveled to the Canadian province of Quebec.
Health officials in Quebec’s largest city told reporters there was a link between the US case of monkeypox in Massachusetts and a few of the suspected cases in the Montreal region.
Dr Mylene Drouin, public health director of Montreal, said the cases are not considered severe and are mainly among men who have had sexual relations with men, between 30 to 55 years old.
While public health officials hope to have laboratory confirmation by the weekend, Drouin said there is a good chance cases are due to monkeypox.
“The more that we see the evolution of what’s happening around the world, and the link that we have with the case in the US, we suspect that it’s a strong possibility,” she said.
Dr. Genevieve Bergeron, a medical officer for health emergencies and infectious diseases, said the first suspected case was reported on May 12.
Monkeypox, which mostly occurs in west and central Africa, is a rare viral infection similar to human smallpox, though milder. It was first recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s. The number of cases in West Africa has increased in the last decade.
Symptoms include fever, headaches and skin rashes starting on the face and spreading to the rest of the body.