Governor Pritzker declares Illinois monkeypox virus outbreak a public health emergency

CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois Governor JB Pritzker on Monday declared the monkeypox virus a public health emergency and declared Illinois a disaster area related to the disease.

The statement applies statewide and will enable the Illinois Department of Public Health to coordinate logistics to aid in vaccine distribution and treatment and prevention efforts. The statement will also help coordinate the state’s response with the federal government.

“MPV is a rare, but potentially serious disease that requires the full mobilization of all available public health resources to prevent its spread,” Governor Pritzker said in a press release. “Therefore, I am declaring a state of emergency to ensure smooth coordination between government agencies and all levels of government, enabling us to rapidly prevent and treat the disease. We have seen this virus disproportionately affect the LGBTQ+ community in its initial spread. Here in Illinois, we will ensure our LGBTQ+ community has the resources they need to stay safe, while ensuring members are not stigmatized for accessing critical health care.”

The proclamation is effective immediately and will remain in effect for 30 days. The World Health Organization declared monkey pox a public health emergency of international concern on July 23.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, have issued a statement endorsing the state’s emergency declaration and saying no additional city statement is needed:

“This emergency statement brings a necessary, heightened focus to the Monkeypox (MPV) outbreak that we are seeing here in Chicago, in our state, and across the country. Since the beginning of this outbreak, the Chicago Department of Public Health has been working diligently with clinical and community partners to raise awareness and vaccinate residents at risk and will continue to do so. Ultimately, however, we need more support from the federal level to fully address the threat MPV poses to our city. It is our hope that this statement joins a chorus of others across the country and encourages the rapid proliferation and distribution of vaccines. This statement allows the state to use emergency powers and direct other government agencies, such as Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). to get involved in the Chicago doesn’t need a separate emergency declaration because we are covered by the state declaration, and besides, we already have a local emergency declaration y procurement process; a strong local distribution network; and a diverse group of clinical and community partners working to raise awareness and vaccinate at-risk Chicagoans.”

Monkeypox: what we know so far

Since July 23, the number of monkey pox cases in the city of Chicago alone has nearly tripled in less than a week. Cases are also skyrocketing statewide.

A total of 520 monkeypox cases were reported in Illinois on Monday, according to the Illinois Department of Health. This total includes all probable and confirmed cases.

The city of Chicago reported a total of 330 cases on July 28.

“I hope it will help with, you know, a) funding, and b) really, the most important thing is to get vaccines,” said Dr. Karen Krueger.

Krueger is an infectious disease specialist at Northwestern Medicine. She supports the governor’s decision, saying monkeypox spreads through direct, prolonged contact with an infected person.

“Until now, I haven’t really seen such community transference,” Krueger said. “They’ve really been people who have been in very close contact with someone else.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monkeypox can spread through close, personal and frequent skin-to-skin contact. Officials have noted that the virus mainly spreads among men with same-sex partners.

Kissing, hugging and sexual contact are the most common ways it spreads.

“It can also be spread on sheets, clothes or eating utensils — things like that — and then those things get shared with another person,” Krueger said.

She said it is less likely, but possible, to catch monkeypox in the air, for example by being in large crowds.

Monkeypox starts with flu-like symptoms and progresses to an outbreak of lesions – usually within a few days. A full list of symptoms can be found here.

Patients have described: extremely painful sores all over their bodies.

CDC officials said symptoms usually begin “within three weeks of exposure to the virus.” The illness usually lasts two to four weeks.

Cases of monkey pox often disappear after a few weeks without additional treatment. Some reported cases have been more serious and have resulted in hospitalizations.

“The majority of people can manage their symptoms at home and just drive through the course,” Krueger said.

That’s good news. But the bad news is that those who get the virus are contagious for two to four weeks and have to isolate themselves.

“Normally we tell them to isolate for at least 21 days, so really to leave their homes only for emergencies, or to go to doctor’s visits,” Krueger said.

The smallpox vaccine is used against monkeypox, but the supply is currently strictly limited. The declaration of emergency could help put Illinois at the top of the vaccine distribution list.

Kozlov asked Dr. Krueger also asked whether we needed another closure to slow the spread of the virus. She said she doesn’t see that happening.

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