A cluster of monkeypox cases has emerged in Chicago just as the World Health Organization (WHO) is declaring the health emergency over.
A dozen confirmed cases and one probable case of monkeypox were reported in the nation’s third-biggest city in the period from April 17 to May 5. In all of these cases, the virus was spread through sexual contact. Nine of the infections were noted in men who were fully vaccinated against the virus.
Although none of the infected individuals were hospitalized, the city is nevertheless warning of a “resurgence” of monkeypox. The illness grabbed a lot of headlines last year when it started spreading rapidly among gay and bisexual men in Europe and the U.S.; its rise coincided with gay pride celebrations in many cities. Cases peaked in August before tapering off, largely due to greater awareness. So far, just over 30,000 Americans have been diagnosed with monkeypox.
In the Chicago uptick, officials are worried about the disease spreading undetected among individuals, including those who are vaccinated. The men who are infected have an average age of 34, and a third of them also have HIV. Some of the men involved had recently traveled to places like Mexico, New York City and New Orleans.
Chicago Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Allison Arwady announced that cases have been rising in the Windy City. Speaking on Facebook Live, she said: “Most weeks we didn’t see a single mpox case, maybe one or two in a higher week. But just these last couple of weeks we saw two, then five, now another six coming in.”
Officials have been issuing warnings recently about the potential for a resurgence this summer as hundreds of thousands of individuals head to gay pride festivities throughout the nation. So far, however, there has not been an uptick beyond the one in Chicago.
A total of 62 cases were reported in the two-week period from April 26 to May 10, with most of them being in Texas, followed closely by Illinois. Other cases were reported in Louisiana, California, New York, Florida, Oregon and Alabama. However, officials from Texas said that at least 17 of those cases were actually from last year and were only just now being added to the CDC’s count.
WHO declares monkeypox health emergency over
The WHO recently declared an end to the international emergency declared over the virus last July, when Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus overruled an expert committee in issuing the designation. Some believe that he may have been acting out of an abundance of caution due to criticism over how the WHO responded to COVID in its early days.
However, he now says that the outbreak is largely under control, declaring: “We now see steady progress in controlling the outbreak based on the lessons of HIV and working closely with the most affected communities.
“I’m pleased to declare that the mpox is no longer a global health emergency,” he added.
Monkeypox, which is now sometimes referred to as “mpox” in an attempt to destigmatize it, has long been present in certain areas of western and central Africa, where individuals are infected by wild animals. However, it was not responsible for major outbreaks until epidemics started popping up around the world last May.
The disease is marked by a telltale rash accompanied by headache, fever, swollen lymph nodes and muscle pain. It can only be spread through close physical contact with someone who is infected, or contact with their bedding or clothing, and it generally responds well to antivirals. However, it can take around a month to recover from the virus.
Despite being relatively mild in most people, it won’t be surprising if officials and pharmaceutical companies use the Chicago uptick and the impending summer gay pride festivals as a reason to try to push vaccines on people.
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