CHICAGO — Two Chicagoans have died from the monkeypox virus, the first Chicagoans to die from the virus during this outbreak, health officials announced Friday.
The virus — which is also known as MPV and causes painful sores — is largely non-fatal, health officials have said. The Chicagoans who died from the virus had multiple other health conditions, including weakened immune systems, according to a Chicago Department of Health news release.
The two people’s cases were not related to each other, according to the health department. Both were diagnosed more than six weeks ago and had been hospitalized.
Further information about the people is not being released to protect their identities, according to the health department.
“Our hearts go out to these individuals’ families and friends,” health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in the news release. “Though the number of new MPV cases has declined substantially since summer, this is a stark reminder that MPV is dangerous and can cause serious illness, and in very rare cases, even death.”
The global outbreak of monkeypox — which had previously received little attention in the United States — made headlines this spring and summer before newly diagnosed cases began to drop locally in the fall.
While 1,061 Chicagoans have been diagnosed with monkeypox, 68 of those people have needed to be hospitalized. The two people whose deaths were announced Friday were the first Chicagoans known to have died from monkeypox.
Officials have urged people to get vaccinated against monkeypox, though who can get vaccinated remains limited.
Here’s what else you need to know about monkeypox:
What Is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus. Some officials are referring to monkeypox as MPV to help with destigmatization.
Monkeypox is rarely fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the disease can be painful and dangerous, David Ernesto Munar, president and CEO of Howard Brown Health, previously said.
Monkeypox typically lasts two to four weeks, according to the CDC.
How Monkeypox Spreads
The virus can spread through person-to-person contact, officials said.
According to the CDC, monkeypox can spread through:
- Someone coming into direct contact with a person’s infectious rash, scabs or body fluids.
- Someone coming into contact with an infected person’s respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact, including through kissing, cuddling and sex.
- Someone touching items — including clothing or linens — that previously touched a person’s infectious rash or body fluids.
- A fetus can be infected if a pregnant person gets monkeypox.
Infected animals can also spread monkeypox to people in a variety of scenarios. For example, an infected animal could scratch or bite a person, or a person could eat an infected animal’s meat or products, according to the CDC.
Monkeypox can spread from the time an infected person shows symptoms until their rash has healed and they no longer show symptoms, according to the CDC. People who don’t have symptoms can’t spread the virus.
Who Can Get Monkeypox?
Anyone can get monkeypox.
In Chicago, most cases have been diagnosed in men — in particular, men who have sex with men, Arwady previously said. But that’s largely because spread of the virus is easier in tight-knit social networks, she said; there is nothing specific about being part of the LGBTQ+ community that makes someone more susceptible to monkeypox.
Symptoms Of Monkeypox
The defining symptom of monkeypox is a rash that can take several weeks to heal and can go through stages as it heals, experts said.
The rash might look like pimples or blisters that can appear on a person’s face, face, hands, chest, genitals or anus, according to the CDC and experts.
The rash can also be internal, making it difficult for people to go to the bathroom, eat or drink, Munar said.
The rash can be “very painful, excruciatingly painful,” Munar previously said.
Some people may only experience the rash, while others will develop other symptoms, experts said. Other symptoms:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes, including in the neck and groin
- Exhaustion and malaise
“Often, people have flu-like symptoms and then rashes that can look like a blister, like a pimple and can be very painful,” Arwady previously said.
Anyone with symptoms should seek medical care to get tested, experts said.
What Should You Do If You Think You Have Monkeypox?
People who think they have monkeypox should isolate from others, limit skin-to-skin contact with other people and be careful not to share bedding, towels or other linens, Munar previously said.
Anyone who has a new, unexplained rash should avoid sex or being intimate until they’ve been checked out by a medical professional, Arwady previously said.
People who think they have monkeypox should seek medical care to get tested.
How To Get Tested For Monkeypox
Go to a health care provider to get tested for monkeypox. Tests are not available over the counter.
Testing is widespread and available in most doctor’s offices and medical settings, Arwady said. A medical professional will run a swab over a person’s rash to test for monkeypox.
People who don’t have a health care provider can call the city health department at 312-746-4835 to get connected to care, Arwady said.
Who Can Get Vaccinated Against Monkeypox In Chicago
Because vaccines are limited at this time, the city’s health department is trying to limit them for people who are most at risk from the virus.
Here’s who is eligible in Chicago:
- Anyone who has had skin-to-skin contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox. There are not restrictions for people in this group.
- People who exchange goods or services for sex.
- People who live with HIV, especially those who do not receive HIV care or who do not regularly take their HIV medications.
- People who are eligible for or currently taking PrEP to help prevent infection of HIV.
- Sexually active bisexual, gay and other same-gender-loving men, as well as sexually active transgender people.
- Sexual partners of those included above or people who anticipate meeting the above criteria in the future.
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