Alberta has now confirmed four cases of monkey pox. The county health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, made the announcement during Thursday’s COVID-19 press conference.
“These adult individuals are self-isolating and I would like to express my appreciation for their assistance in locating and investigating contacts,” she said.
Monkeypox is spread through skin-to-skin contact or by touching things contaminated with the virus, such as clothing or bedding.
Monkey pox symptoms include fever, swollen glands, sores, or rash.
Hinshaw said anyone experiencing monkey pox symptoms should isolate themselves and call 811.
“These are common symptoms and most people with these symptoms will have a different cause. However, it’s especially important to be aware of these symptoms for anyone who has had a new sexual partner,” Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw noted that the majority of monkey pox cases recorded worldwide have occurred in the gay community. She says Alberta Health has reached out to organizations across the province serving the LGBTQ2S+ community to provide them with information.
“This is not done to shame or stigmatize anyone, and it does not mean that someone who has contracted monkey pox or is a contact has done anything wrong,” she said.
Rob Browatzke is co-owner of Evolution Wonderlounge, a gay bar in downtown Edmonton. He said he was surprised when he received an email from Alberta Health about monkey pox earlier this week.
“I wrote back and asked if it went to all nightclubs or if it only went to gay bars and I haven’t heard back yet,” he told CTV News on Thursday.
“If monkeypox is transmissible through certain behaviors, then it should be everywhere. We’re certainly not the only nightclub where people go hooking.”
CTV News asked Hinshaw about Browatzke’s concerns during Thursday’s press conference.
“I’m very sorry that that particular fact sheet caused that, it certainly wasn’t meant to be,” she said. “We’ve tried to get feedback from different organizations on the wording and language, and did our best to balance the need for timely dissemination of accurate information with the consultation of different representative groups.”
Browatzke worries that linking monkeypox to the gay community will reinforce harmful stereotypes.
“If people are already inclined to think that gay sex or gay people are dirty or are disease carriers, it will only reinforce that kind of harmful ignorance,” he said. “And that this is happening during Pride month is just amazing. I’m like, ‘Come on government!’”
“We continue to work with organizations and welcome their feedback and if there are ways we can talk about this in ways that provide accurate information about risk factors so that people can take control of their own health without being stigmatized, we absolutely welcome that feedback. ‘ said Hinshaw.
She added that the risk of contracting monkey pox in Alberta remains low.