The spreading monkeypox virus has reached another alarming stage: Officials have said that more than 300 Chicagoans have tested positive for the virus.
The Chicago Department of Public Health said Wednesday that the number of cases in the city is now up to 326. The number of cases was 202 last Friday.
It is clearly disturbing. said Massimo Bachele, CDPH’s deputy commissioner for disease control.
He said the jump highlights the need to continue to vaccinate people at risk and spread awareness of the virus. He added that recent expansion in testing capacity and advances in physicians’ ability to diagnose disease may have contributed to the marked increase.
“Any increase in cases is an indication that there is more that needs to be done,” Bachelet said. He added that the growth of the virus appears more linear than exponential.
The surge in cases seen over the past five days already represents the largest weekly increase in monkeypox cases Chicago has ever seen. The delay in reporting positive cases from newly launched testing labs may also have contributed to the jump, Bachelet said.
CDPH Commissioner Dr. Alison Arwady said Wednesday that most casual contact and everyday activities — such as shopping, going to the pub, riding the train or using gym equipment — pose little or no risk of monkeypox.
She encouraged people to avoid sharing drinks, cigarettes, and e-cigarette pens and to have monkeypox conversations with new sexual partners.
“Most importantly, if you start to have symptoms, see your health care provider and get tested immediately. If the test result is positive, we can recently vaccinate people close to help stop the virus from spreading further.
CDPH said the virus is mostly spread among men who have sex with men, a trend seen across the country. The city is targeting vaccination towards that group, especially those who have sex in places or who have multiple or unknown partners. But some cases of monkeypox in Chicago have occurred outside of that group.
“MPV is not a gay disease,” Arwady said. “There is nothing inherent in the biology of the virus that limits it to MSM. The virus spreads through tight-knit social media; it does not discriminate.”
Many gay men across Chicago have reported difficulty securing vaccinations as cities across the country struggle with nationwide dose shortages. CDPH received 15,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine from the federal government over the weekend. CDPH announced last Friday that it will prioritize giving as many at-risk people as possible the first shot with these new doses, which likely means that many will experience delays in getting the second shot.
The new doses will curb the huge demand for monkeypox vaccines, Bachelet said, but the influx doesn’t mean that everyone who wants a shot will get it.
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“There are not enough vaccines for everyone who might be willing to do so,” he said.
The new spike in cases also comes just 10 days before the Northstead Market Days Festival begins. The LGBTQ-focused event brings hundreds of thousands of people to Chicago each year.
The monkeypox virus associated with smallpox was first discovered in humans in 1970 and is endemic to parts of West and Central Africa. The disease often begins with flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes before developing into a large, distinct rash all over the body that looks like blisters or pimples. Monkeypox can last for up to four weeks.
The virus is generally transmitted through close physical contact with scabies or the bodily fluids of a person with monkeypox, as well as close contact with objects that they have touched. Spread can occur through actions such as towel sharing or intimate sexual contact.
To learn more about the monkeypox virus, visit CDPH Monkeypox fact sheet.
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