Warning from Health Officials: Increase in Monkeypox Cases in Chicago

Health experts are warning the public about a resurgence of monkeypox cases in Chicago. As of mid-April, the Chicago Public Health Department had reported five cases. However, ministry data reveals that 20 cases have since been detected. The disease, which health experts now refer to as “MPOX,” spread rapidly across the country last summer, mostly among gay and bisexual men. The disease arrived in Chicago in early June and by mid-July was infecting more than 100 Chicagoans each week. Despite widespread efforts to contain the spread through vaccination and preventive measures, the number of cases of infection declined. However, as summer approaches and mass gatherings are held for events, the disease is reigniting and affecting at-risk groups.

Chicago Public Health Director Dr. Alison Ahwadi and other health experts are calling for at-risk people to take preventative measures to stop the spread of the virus that causes painful rashes and flu-like symptoms. The disease is often sexually transmitted but can be transmitted through any kind of prolonged skin-to-skin contact. Symptoms often begin with flu-like symptoms that progress to a rash after 1 to 3 days. The rash often appears first around the genitals and buttocks, but can also appear around the mouth, hands, and back. The disease mainly affects homosexuals and men.

CDPH data shows that while bisexual men are infected in Chicago, others are also infected with the disease. Howard Brown Health had only one case in 14 weeks earlier this year. However, they treated 11 new cases last month at an LGBTQ-focused Chicago health center. Cases spiked last summer with more than 800 Chicagoans infected less than three months after the city’s first confirmed case. The current resurgence in infections was somewhat expected, as infections tend to increase during the summer months.

Health experts are urging at-risk people to practice safer sex by limiting the number of sexual partners, especially unknown ones, and to use condoms during sexual activity. The hospital system uses the antiviral drug tecovirimato, and ongoing trials continue to determine the drug’s efficacy in treatment. Several of those who recently tested positive for MPOX in Chicago had traveled to other cities or countries. Disease control and prevention for infected persons by early May is essential to minimize the number of future cases.

Officials said three people died in Chicago and 77 were hospitalized due to monkeypox in the past year. Although many cases of MPOX are not serious, the disease has caused deaths. Some cases can be long-lasting and extremely painful. The disease’s current resurgence is likely not the last, and health experts encourage those at risk to take preventative measures. They recommend vaccination, and at-risk Chicagoans can receive a two-shot CDPH sexually transmitted disease vaccination course free of charge at the clinic.

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