There have been four confirmed cases of monkeypox within Island Health since it was first reported to have spread to the region July 8, officials say.
Three of the cases are located in the South Island and one is in the Central Island, the health authority confirmed to CHEK News Thursday.
Island Health says as with any disease, there is the possibility that additional infections in the region have not been detected.
“However, the risk of being infected with Monkeypox for the general pubic at this time is very low,” Island Health said. “The Monkeypox virus does not spread easily from person-to-person. Evidence of transmission has involved prolonged skin-to-skin contact, which is suspected to be the primary way the virus is spread.”
According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, there are 61 confirmed cases province-wide, with cases detected in Island Health, Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health.
There are three detected cases confirmed in Fraser Health, and 54 in Vancouver Coastal Health.
Vaccination efforts have been ramping up on Vancouver Island, with 180 doses administered last week.
“An additional 420 doses were received this week for distribution across south, central and north island,” said Island Health, adding that uptake for available vaccination appointments this week has been “excellent.”
The province says it has received 14,480 vaccine doses, and is distributing them to the health authorities, with the majority going to the lower mainland where the most infections have occurred.
The update comes a day after Canada’s top doctor, Dr. Theresa Tam, advised men who have sex with men to practise safe sex and reduce their number of partners to limit the spread of the virus.
“Learning from the HIV pandemic is very important, which is why engaging communities who are most impacted right at the start to together find solutions will be our best weapon against the spread of this virus,” Tam said at a virtual press briefing on Wednesday.
There has been some criticism from other health officials about public health messaging targeting men who have sex with men, with some saying the emphasis should instead be on vaccination.
“We have to understand that monkeypox, it’s not a sexually transmitted disease,” said Dr. Mylene Drouin, Montreal’s public health director, on Thursday.
“It’s now spreading in the community of gay, bisexual, trans and other men who have sex with men because of ‘interconnections in certain groups within the community,'” she added. “But I think we have to see this disease as not only linked to a specific community.”
Tam said there are 745 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Canada — mostly in Ontario and Quebec — and 99 per cent of those affected are men with a median age of 36.
The virus can be passed through contact with bodily fluids or scabs and contaminated personal items like clothing, bedding, sex toys or toothbrushes.
Symptoms of the virus include a painful rash that can be accompanied by fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes and body aches.
The federal government has supplied more than 70,000 doses of vaccine across the country.
With files from The Canadian Press.
This story has been updated to include information about the number of cases confirmed in Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health.