The monkeypox outbreak continues to grow in Chicago with 326 people now having tested positive for the virus as vaccine supplies remain limited, officials announced Wednesday.
Residents should take precautions to help stem the spread and people showing symptoms are encouraged to get tested, the Chicago Department of Public Health said.
The city received an additional 15,000 doses of the vaccine over the weekend, its largest allotment to date, but demand continues to outpace supply, health officials said.
Though anyone can get the virus, most of the cases in Chicago have been diagnosed in males with a median age of 35, health officials said. The disease has mostly been identified among men who have sex with other men, but CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady warned the public that monkeypox “is not a ‘gay disease.’ ”
“There’s nothing inherent in the biology of the virus that limits it to men who have sex with men. The virus spreads through tightknit social networks; it does not discriminate,” Arwady said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been notified of 385 cases of monkeypox in Illinois as of Wednesday.
Vaccine priority will be given to those considered to be at highest risk: any individual who has had close physical contact with someone diagnosed with MPV, the monkeypox virus, or whose sexual partner was diagnosed with MPV in the past 14 days, health officials said. The vaccine is currently not recommended for the general public.
Testing capacity has increased throughout Chicago as many commercial labs have begun testing for the disease, though there is no screening test available for people without symptoms.
Common symptoms of monkeypox include a rash or sores that look like pimples or blisters and can appear anywhere on the body. Some people also have flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes.
Health officials said people should limit skin-to-skin contact when possible. There is a higher likelihood of spreading monkeypox in enclosed spaces like backrooms, saunas, sex clubs or where there is minimal or no clothing.
On Tuesday, officials announced a case of monkeypox had been identified at the Cook County Jail.
The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency over the weekend.