326 and up – Chicago Tribune

The spread of the monkeypox virus has passed another worrying milestone: More than 300 Chicagoans have now tested positive, officials said.

The number of cases in the city is now 326, the Chicago Department of Public Health announced Wednesday. The number of cases was 202 last Friday.

“It is obviously concerning. We are doing everything we can,” said Massimo Pacilli, assistant commissioner for disease control at the CDPH.

The jump highlights the need to continue vaccinating those at risk and to raise awareness about the virus, he said. A recent expansion in testing capacity and advances in clinicians’ ability to diagnose the disease may have contributed to this marked increase, he added.

“Any increase in the number of cases is an indicator that there is still a long way to go,” Pacilli said. The growth of the virus appears to be more linear than exponential, he added.

The surge in cases seen over the past five days already marks the largest weekly increase in monkeypox cases Chicago has seen. Delays in reporting positive cases from newly launched testing labs may also have contributed to the jump, Pacilli said.

Most casual contact and everyday activities — like shopping, going to a bar, taking a train or using gym equipment — pose little or no risk of contracting monkeypox, the CDPH commissioner said on Wednesday. , Dr. Allison Arwady.

She encouraged people to avoid sharing drinks, cigarettes and vape pens and to have conversations about monkeypox with new sex partners.

“Most importantly, if you start showing symptoms, see a healthcare professional and get tested right away. If you test positive, we can vaccinate your recent close contacts to help stop the spread of the virus,” Arwady said.

The virus is spreading primarily among men who have sex with men, a trend seen across the country, the CDPH said. The city is targeting vaccination at this group, particularly those who have sex in venues or have multiple or anonymous partners. But some cases of Chicago monkeypox have occurred outside of this group.

“MPV is not a ‘gay disease’,” Arwady said. “There is nothing inherent in the biology of the virus that limits it to men who have sex with men. The virus spreads through close-knit social networks; it does not discriminate.

Many gay people in Chicago have reported difficulty getting vaccinated as cities across the country grapple with a nationwide shortage of doses. CDPH received 15,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine from the federal government over the weekend. The CDPH announced last Friday that it would prioritize getting as many at-risk people as possible their first shot with these new doses, which likely means many will face delays in getting their second shot.

The new doses will dent huge demand for monkeypox vaccines, but the influx doesn’t mean everyone who wants a shot will get one, Pacilli said.

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“There just aren’t enough vaccines for all of us who want them,” he said.

The new rise in cases also comes just 10 days before the start of the Northalsted Market Days street festival. The LGBTQ-focused event draws hundreds of thousands of people to Chicago each year.

The smallpox-related monkeypox virus was first detected in humans in 1970 and is endemic in parts of West and Central Africa. The disease often begins with flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes before progressing to large, distinct rashes all over the body that look like pimples or blisters. Monkeypox can last up to four weeks.

The virus is usually spread through close physical contact with a scab or the bodily fluids of a person with monkeypox, as well as through contact with objects they have touched closely. Spread can occur through acts like sharing a towel or intimate sexual contact.

To learn more about the monkeypox virus, visit CDPH Monkeypox Information Page.

jsheridan@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @jakesheridan_

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