Alberta has now confirmed four cases of monkeypox. The provincial medical director of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw made the announcement during Thursday’s COVID-19 press conference.
“These adult individuals are self-isolating and I want to express my gratitude for their assistance in tracing and investigating contacts,” she said.
Monkeypox is spread through skin-to-skin contact or by touching things contaminated by the virus, such as clothing or bedding.
Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, swollen glands, sores or a rash.
Hinshaw said anyone showing symptoms of smallpox should self-isolate and call 811.
“These are common symptoms and most people with these symptoms will have another cause. However, being aware of these symptoms is particularly important for anyone who has had a new sexual partner,” Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw noted that the majority of monkeypox cases that have been reported around the world have been in the gay community. She says Alberta Health has reached out to organizations across the province that serve the LGBTQ2S+ community to provide information.
“This is not being done to shame or stigmatize anyone, and this does not mean that anyone who has contracted smallpox or is in contact has done anything wrong,” she said.
Rob Browatzke is co-owner of Evolution Wonderlounge, a gay bar in downtown Edmonton. He says he was surprised to receive an email from Alberta Health about smallpox earlier this week.
“I wrote back and asked if I was going to all the clubs or if I was going to just gay bars and I still haven’t heard anything,” he told CTV News on Thursday.
“If monkeypox is transmissible through certain behaviors, then it should be happening everywhere. We are certainly not the only nightclub where people are going to meet.”
CTV News asked Hinshaw about Browatzke’s concerns during Thursday’s press conference.
“I am very sorry that that particular datasheet caused this, that was certainly not the intention,” she said. “We tried to get feedback from various organizations on wording and language and did our best to balance the need for timely dissemination of accurate information with consultation with various constituencies.”
Browatzke fears that linking monkeypox to the gay community reinforces harmful stereotypes.
“If people are already predisposed to think that gay sex or gay men are dirty or disease-carrying, it will only reinforce this kind of harmful ignorance,” he said. “And that this is happening during Pride month is surprising. I’m like, ‘Let’s go government!’”
“We continue to engage with organizations and appreciate your feedback, and if there are ways to talk about this in a way that provides accurate information about risk factors so people can take control of their own health without stigmatizing, we appreciate that feedback. ” said Hinshaw.
She added that the risk of contracting smallpox in Alberta remains low.