Chicago’s top doctor on Thursday urged Chicagoans to avoid behaviors that could put them at risk of contracting the monkeypox virus, calling this weekend “a moment of caution” as tens of thousands of people prepare to congregate on the north side for Northalsted market days. street party.
The annual celebration at the heart of Chicago’s LGBTQ community comes amid a rare outbreak of monkeypox, or MPV, which has now spread to at least 571 people in Illinois, most cases – 478 from early June to Thursday – being reported in the city.
These cases have been detected in 55 of Chicago’s 77 community areas, and while most have occurred in men who have sex with men, officials emphasize that anyone can become infected through close contact.
“There is nothing biological about this virus that makes it specific to men who have sex with men. However, this is the network where we have seen it spread the most here in Chicago and around the world. Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a press conference at City Hall.
“The overall risk of VPD for the general public remains low at this time, but we really want to emphasize that we need you to see a healthcare provider if you develop symptoms.”
These include pimple-like sores and rashes, as well as fever, body aches, and chills. The virus spreads mainly through prolonged contact with the rash of a person who has been infected, Arwady said.2
The highest risk activity for spreading MPV is sexual or intimate contact with multiple or anonymous partners — with or without a condom, Arwady said, because transmission relies primarily on direct contact with a wound that may be n anywhere on the body.
Activities that create some risk — but not as much, Arwady said — include kissing, cuddling, dancing at a crowded party where people aren’t fully dressed, as well as sharing drinks, towels, bedding or toiletries.
MPV is much less likely to spread among people dancing fully clothed, Arwady said, and it’s not thought to spread much among co-workers, touching doorknobs, using public transport, while swimming, going to the gym or trying on clothes in a store.
Officials will boost awareness of minivans on market days this Saturday and Sunday with banners, posters and videos aimed at educating people on how to avoid the virus.
“The Department of Health…has already identified the ways in which you are most likely to be exposed to the virus, and that’s not by being at a street fair,” said festival organizer Mark Liberson. “It’s not being in a bar. It’s not being in a company, so we want people to have a good time, and I think we can do that safely.
Arwady said the city hadn’t considered canceling the festival because “our ability to work with organizations like this, to get the right information out to raise awareness about this is, frankly, the most important thing.”
“We don’t think it sends the right message to say we don’t do it at all. We know that abstinence messages tend not to be successful. … But now is the time to be careful. Having multiple or anonymous sexual partners at this time would be a higher risk in this setting.
Monkeypox has so far sent 29 Chicagoans to hospitals. No one has died from the virus in Illinois.
Federal health officials declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Thursday, freeing up more funds and resources to fight the outbreak, which now has more than 6,600 people nationwide.
Governor JB Pritzker did so at the state level on Monday, as Illinois had the third-highest number of cases of any state in the United States, behind New York and California.
“Our team is working with our federal government to get as much vaccine as possible, but a lot of our work right now is really making sure that we get that vaccine to the places that need it, so that we can contain and mitigate that has spread,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said at a separate press conference.
Demand for the monkeypox vaccine still far exceeds supply as the federal government ramps up production of its vaccine supply, which has been low since the virus has rarely surfaced in the United States for decades.
About 22,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Chicago so far, with another 13,000 doses arriving in the city on Wednesday and another 20,000 expected in the next month and a half, Arwady said. But each of those recipients will need a second dose – and the population of men who have sex with men is estimated at 120,000 in Cook County.
The doses are currently preferred for close contacts of infected people.
Monkeypox tests are widely available, and anyone with potential symptoms is urged to contact a health care provider immediately.
For more information about the city, call 844-482-4040 or visit chicago.gov/MPV.