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Rumours fly, concerns raised after N.B. health minister announces suspected case of monkeypox


It took some people by surprise when New Brunswick’s health minister announced a suspected case of monkeypox in the province during Question Period Wednesday morning.

Dorothy Shephard’s method of communication drew criticism Thursday by opposition leaders who believe there should have been a news conference with clear details on the potential case.

“This is too serious just to throw this out just like that, with no context, no explanation and get people worried,” said New Brunswick Liberal Leader Roger Melanson.

Green Party Leader David Coon called it “bizarre” and said it likely wouldn’t have happened if Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell was back at the helm.

“Clearly there is a huge leadership vacuum in the office of the chief medical officer of health while she is away, and it seems to have fallen then into the bureaucracy so that, presumably, the assistant deputy minister and deputy minister … are the ones managing the information flow,” said Coon.

“That’s what it appears like to me.”

The department has maintained that Russell remains the chief medical officer of health – but CTV Atlantic has not spoken to her since April 5.

Dr. Yves Léger, the province's acting deputy medical officer of health, has been answering COVID-19-related questions on Tuesdays after updated numbers are released.

In a statement, New Brunswick Public Health says the travel-related case remains suspected at this time, and the person’s close contacts have been notified, but they don’t believe the infection was transmitted to anyone else.

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said Wednesday the case was discovered in early May and sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Premier Blaine Higgs said Thursday he hasn’t received any indication that there should be a heightened concern about the possible case.

“We haven't got any indication from Public Health about the high level of concern or the transmissibility or the impact of what that means,” he told reporters. “So there hasn't been anything from Public Health that says there's any reason or overarching concern.”

Epidemiologist and cardiologist Dr. Christopher Labos told CTV News Channel that the public needs to be “mindful of the situation,” but not necessarily concerned.

“I think if we continue to see cases go up in the next three to four weeks, that's going to be concerning because it means we're not managing to contain the virus,” he said.

“But if cases start to plateau in the next month, and that means that the self-isolation, the vaccination campaigns that are going on now will have been largely successful in containing this outbreak and preventing it from becoming an endemic disease in this country.”

Rashes in children due to “other types of infection”

Melanson and Coon say the lack of communication has led to rumours – including that there are possible cases of monkeypox in daycares.

Public Health confirmed Thursday afternoon that it is looking into “reports of rashes in children at daycares in Zones 1 and 3,” which are the Moncton and Fredericton areas.

“Some of these have been assessed by Public Health and are due to other types of infections that are common to the daycare environment,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Health.

“There are a lot of other, more common causes of rashes that can be confused with monkeypox. For example, Impetigo and hand, foot and mouth disease are often seen among young children, and, in a child-care setting, these infections tend to spread easily among the children.”

Public Health is advising any parent who is concerned to contact their health-care provider. A spokesperson says they are not “involved” with any closures of child-care facilities in those zones.

“Operators who observe unusual clusters of illness are required to report to regional Public Health under the Public Health Act and, in addition to consultation with public health professionals, have guidelines on the appropriate actions to take to prevent the spread of disease,” the department said.

The department also reiterated that there are no confirmed cases of monkeypox in the province at this time. Top Stories

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