The number of reported cases of monkeypox in this current outbreak has increased in an unprecedented manner in a short period of time, according to Dr. .
Since early May, authorities have tracked more than 16,000 cases globally and nearly 3,000 in the United Statesincluding 238 in Illinois and three in Evanston as of Friday, July 22, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“It’s time to say we can contain this — we’ve probably missed that window, to be honest,” Hafiz said in a phone interview with the Roundtable on Monday. “And for that reason, we need to make sure that we’re rapidly identifying cases when they do occur, trying to make sure that we’re providing immunizations to every person or group of people who may be at risk, so that we can prevent more beyond the spread. “
Over the weekend, the World Health Organization announced a global outbreak of monkeypox cases a public health emergency of international concerna designation that gives the agency more power to coordinate resources and fight the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has reported over 1,000 cases of monkeypox since July 25. During an appearance on CNN Monday morning, US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra described his level of concern about the domestic outbreak of cases as a “10” out of 10 because public health officials simply haven’t acted sooner. with a monkeypox emergency.
So far, the U.S. has seen very few hospitalizations and no reported deaths from monkeypox, but the disease can cause severe pain, difficulty eating or using the bathroom, and possibly weeks of lost work. which can destroy individuals, families and communities.
Are there enough vaccines?
About 85% of the reported cases in Illinois have occurred in Chicago, but the entire state has only received about 5,000 doses of the vaccine at this point, most of which have gone to Chicago.
Evanston has not yet received any vaccine assignments, city Health and Human Services Director Ike Ogbo told the Roundtable.
Last Thursday, July 21, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and IDPH Acting Director Amaal Tokars also gave a statement calling on the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to increase monkeypox vaccine distribution and disease prevention efforts.
“Despite our efforts in Illinois to limit the spread of this virus, we are experiencing a steady increase in cases,” Tokars said in the statement. “The best defense against this disease is the rapid distribution of effective vaccines. While we are grateful for all the federal support we have received to date, we call on the federal government to make every effort to the extent possible to streamline the process and increase shipments of vaccines so that they can be promptly administered to the population that is most at risk.”
According to Hafiz and IDPH, the available monkeypox vaccines are part of a national stockpile maintained by the military and federal government in the event of a smallpox bioterrorism event.
The US has also bought more doses to supplement its existing supply, but authorities do not yet know when the vaccines will become widely available.
At this time, the CDC recommends vaccination only for people who were in close contact with a known positive case or for people who have had multiple sexual partners recently and live in an area with high community transmission of monkeypox.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox, a disease that animals, especially rodents, can transmit to humans begins with flu-like symptoms. People who become infected usually experience fever, chills, body aches and lesions around the face and genitals. Health officials identified the first cases of monkeypox in humans in the 1960s and 1970s.
Human transmission of monkeypox virus usually occurs through prolonged skin-to-skin contact and exposure to bodily fluids of an infected person.
So far, the vast majority of cases reported worldwide in this particular outbreak have occurred in gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, but this phenomenon does not make monkeypox a sexually transmitted disease. according to Hafiz.
Anyone can still contract the virus through close contact with an infected individual. “It’s still close skin-to-skin contact, which also happens during sexual contact, but it’s not exclusive to sexual contact,” Hafiz said. “So, therefore, it is not an STD, but it is a close contact transmission of the disease.”
One of the issues that may also contribute to more cases, according to Hafiz, is that most Americans are either not vaccinated against smallpox or have declining immunity. The smallpox vaccine might have provided some level of cross-immunity to monkeypox, but routine smallpox vaccination was halted in 1972 after the US had not recorded a single case for several years.
In an email to the Roundtable, Ogbo said the Evanston health department will announce vaccine availability and a plan for use once the city receives a dose allocation. Meanwhile, Ogbo and other local health officials have partnered with Howard Brown Health, a Chicago nonprofit specializing in LGBTQ+ health care, “to provide vaccinations and treatment to Evanston residents who meet the criteria,” he said.
Moving forward, public health authorities must do everything in their power to prevent monkeypox from becoming a stigmatized disease, especially because of the lesions it can cause, according to Hafiz. If monkeypox gains a reputation as a social stigma, it could encourage people who become infected not to seek treatment or admit they are sick, he said.
“Without vaccination and [with] stigmatizing people — if they’re not coming forward — we can start to develop endemic pockets of disease that can go on for a very, very long time, and that’s a concern,” Hafiz said. “We wouldn’t need the return from the wild, from the animals, because we’ve already created a means to circulate it [disease] between people. We’re already seeing that, but we have to stop that cycle before it becomes a long-term issue.”
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