CHICAGO — More than 100 cases of Monkeypox have been identified in Chicago since the city’s first case was confirmed last month.
Chicago Department of Public Health officials announced the city has reached 105 cases of Monkeypox, with most cases occurring among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. However, anyone can get Monkeypox, officials stressed.
“Nearly all — but not all — [cases] have been seen in that group,” health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. “There’s nothing about the virus that makes it more likely to be in men who have sex with men, it’s just that’s the close network we’ve seen it spreading in initially.”
Discovered in 1958, Monkeypox is a disease endemic to parts of central and west Africa, but has recently spread to other countries, including the United States, health officials said. As of Friday, 8,238 cases have been reported in 57 countries, including 767 in the U.S., said Dr. Janna Kerins, a medical director for the health department.
The disease is spread through close contact, like touching someone’s rash and sores or sharing bedding or towels, Kerins said. It can also spread during prolonged face-to-face contact — within a three-hour window — through respiratory droplets by kissing, coughing or sneezing, Kerins said.
People infected with Monkeypox may experience a flu-like illness with symptoms such as a fever, chills, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes or glands and a rash that can look like pimples or blisters, Kerins said. Some people have developed the rash without experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Efforts to vaccinate people at a higher risk for getting Monkeypox are underway, said Massimo Pacilli, deputy commissioner of the Disease Control Bureau at the city’s health department.
So far, vaccination clinics have been held at bathhouses like Steamworks, 3246 N. Halsted St. and at this month’s Pride South Side festival at the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, 740 E. 56th Place.
Vaccines, which can be preventative or administered after being exposed to the disease, are available to anyone who has been exposed to someone with Monkeypox, Pacilli said.
Gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men can also get vaccinated if they have intimate or sexual contact with other men in a social or sexual venue, have multiple or anonymous partners or if they are sex workers, Pacilli said.
Due to limited supply, the vaccine is not currently recommended for the general public, including men who have sex with men, without the additional risk factors, Pacilli said.
So far, the city has received 5,409 vaccines, with 7,493 more expected in the coming weeks, Pacilli said.
“Given at present the current limited vaccine availability, it’s really of the utmost importance that vaccine is administered for those at highest risk of being exposed, to meaningfully interrupt chains of transmission to mitigate the spread,” Pacilli said.
Anyone with experiencing Monkeypox symptoms should isolate and see a primary care doctor, Arwady said. They can also call the city’s COVID hotline at 312-746-4835 to be connected with care.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.