Tuesday 16 May 2023

Monkeypox outbreak reported in Chicago – nearly 70% of infected were already vaccinated against the disease

 Monkeypox has returned with a vengeance as an outbreak of the disease is reported in Chicago. The disease now appears to be affecting men who were injected with the vaccine for it.

In a May 9 update, the Chicago Department of Public Health recorded 12 confirmed and one probable case of the virus between April 17 and May 5. Nine of the 13 total infections, or nearly 70 percent, were in men vaccinated against the disease.

All patients were male with an average age of 34. Four of them had recently visited New York City, New Orleans or Mexico. Four patients tested positive for HIV, while one was diagnosed with syphilis.

The sudden uptick in monkeypox cases in the Windy City became a cause for alarm among health officials, who feared that the disease may be spreading undetected even among those vaccinated against it.

“Most weeks, we didn’t see a single monkeypox case. Maybe one or two in a higher week,” said Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady in a Facebook live session. “But just these last couple of weeks – we saw two, then five, now another six coming in.”

Other health officials have warned of a resurgence of the disease in the summer amid LGBT Pride marches across the country. As of writing, monkeypox has infected 30,395 Americans and has led to 42 fatalities in the United States.  

The world was put on high alert when monkeypox began spreading last year, largely among gay and bisexual men in the U.S. and Europe.

Monkeypox mainly spreads via direct sexual contact with an infected patient, or contact with an infected person’s clothing or bedsheets. Symptoms include a rash, fever, headache, muscle pain and swollen lymph nodes. Monkeypox patients require isolation, and treatment often involves antiviral drugs and painkillers.

WHO ends monkeypox emergency amid outbreak in Chicago

Amid the rising number of monkeypox cases in Chicago, the World Health Organization (WHO) still declared an end to the global health emergency first announced for the disease. Last July, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the declaration. Almost a year later on May 11, he ended the emergency – citing “steady progress” in bringing down new monkeypox infections.

“The emergency committee for monkeypox met and recommended to me that the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox no longer represents a public health emergency of international concern,” said Tedros. “I have accepted that advice, and I’m pleased to declare that monkeypox is no longer a global health emergency.”

A public health emergency has been declared for several disease outbreaks since 2007 – including monkeypox, the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), Zika, Ebola, polio and the H1N1 swine flu.

“We now see steady progress in controlling the outbreak based on the lessons of HIV, and working closely with the most affected communities,” Tedros continued. The WHO director-general also mentioned that the feared backlash against the communities most affected by the monkeypox outbreak “has largely not materialized.”

Nevertheless, Tedros remarked that travel-related monkeypox cases in all regions of the world highlight the pathogen’s continued threat. He said: “While we welcome the downward trend of monkeypox cases globally, the virus continues to affect communities in all regions – including in Africa – where transmission is still not well understood.”

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