Monkeypox Cases on the Rise in Chicago and Beyond: Vaccination Urged for LGBTQ+ Community and High-Risk Individuals
Doctors in Chicago are warning of a sudden uptick in cases of monkeypox, with Howard Brown Health diagnosing seven new cases in the last two weeks. While this is not a lot compared to case levels in 2022, the sudden increase has medical professionals concerned. Last week’s case count was the highest in Chicago since November 2022 and the highest weekly new case rate in any U.S. region so far this year. Even more troubling is the fact that six of the eight affected patients were fully vaccinated, although all of the cases were mild.
The Howard Brown Health clinic, which focuses on the LGBTQ+ community, has urged sexually active members of the community to receive the mpox vaccine. Dr. Patrick Gibbons, the clinic’s chief medical director, stated that “the more people who get vaccinated, the better protected the LGBTQ+ community will be from another outbreak of monkeypox this year.”
Chicago is not the only place experiencing an uptick in mpox infections. Cases have also been slightly increasing in eight countries in the past three weeks, including several East Asian countries and France, where about half of the cases were in vaccinated people. According to French health authorities, 19 cases have been reported in the Centre-Val de Loire area this year until April 3, with 16 of them being recorded in March alone. All but one were in gay or bisexual men. Out of the infected individuals, ten had received complete vaccination with either the Jynneos vaccine or a smallpox vaccine during their childhood, followed by a recent dose of Jynneos.
While the mpox outbreak has been waning since last summer, it has not disappeared yet. Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the deputy coordinator of the White House national mpox response, has highlighted the importance of vaccination and prevention efforts, stating that “without renewed vaccination and prevention efforts, we are at risk for a resurgence of mpox.”
Symptoms of monkeypox include flu-like symptoms followed by a rash, and it can be transmitted through close physical contact with sores or contaminated items, or through respiratory droplets. Anyone experiencing symptoms indicative of monkeypox, such as new bumps, blisters, or rash in the face, trunk, hands, or back, is urged to contact Howard Brown Health to arrange prompt testing. People who have not been vaccinated for monkeypox should also call any of Howard Brown Health’s nine clinics to schedule an appointment.
Dr. Leanna Gordon, medical director of preventive medicine at Howard Brown, has advised people at high risk of monkeypox to get the Jynneos vaccine. The clinic has also warned that person-to-person transmission is possible, and people who have a new, unexplained rash should avoid sex or being intimate until they’ve been checked out by a medical professional. It is not clear how long immunity lasts after vaccination, and it is also unclear whether those who reduced numbers of sexual partners during the outbreak have resumed sexual practices during this time of waning cases. Medical professionals are urging the public to remain vigilant and take preventive measures against the spread of monkeypox.
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