What to know about monkeypox, the virus putting Illinois in a ‘public health emergency’

Illinois is undergoing a 30-day public health emergency, spurred by the spread of monkeypox...
Illinois is undergoing a 30-day public health emergency, spurred by the spread of monkeypox both state and nationwide.(25 News/Heart of Illinois ABC)
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 8:02 PM CDT
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PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - Monday, Governor Pritzker declared the monkeypox virus a ‘public health emergency,’ now one of three states to do so including California and New York. The governor called it an effort to get out ahead of any potential for an outbreak downstate. Now, local health professionals are educating the public, as families prepare for a new school year.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 533 confirmed or probable cases of monkeypox in Illinois. 85% of those are in Chicago, ranking the state as having the third most cases nationwide. As for the emergency declaration, that means the state will focus on more vaccine shipments while ramping up distribution. So far, there is no indication any cases have been confirmed in our area, nor any deaths in the U.S.

“I think we’ll continue to see it remain in pockets instead of large groups of people,” says Dr. Stephanie Lindstrom, Vice President and Medical Director of UnityPoint Clinic.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stay aware of the virus, or the specific symptoms it brings about. Fever, headache, and exhaustion, along with other flu-like symptoms, can set in early. Those are often followed up by painful rashes and lesions in parts of the body.

“Especially when it’s on the soles of the hands and feet, you can imagine that would be very painful,” says Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mclean County Health Department Marianne Manko.

Unlike COVID-19, the virus doesn’t spread through the air. It’s mainly through close personal touch, especially when direct. For schools, that means low risk to students. While health officials have seen the virus affect mainly gay and bisexual men, anyone is still at risk of contracting it.

“We’ve seen a lot of transmission happen from sexual or very intimate contact,” says OSF St. Francis staff physician Dr. Sharjeel Ahmad.

Vaccines are already available, but officials say you don’t have to get the shot unless you’re at risk. If you think you or a family member has it, you can get test results within a few days. Just be prepared to miss a lot of school or work. Quarantine is usually a 21 day minimum, with incubation and full recovery extending to several more weeks on either end.

“It can be two to three weeks from the time that the person has contact with somebody who became infected before they can get viral, flu-like symptoms,” adds Manko.

If you have any symptoms that you think could be MPV, you’re encouraged to see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

The Peoria County Health Department issued a statement addressing the impact on our area, saying:

“We do not have any confirmed monkeypox in Peoria County. Currently IDPH distributes vaccines based on confirmed cases in counties, and then they allocate by high-risk populations. The schools are also in monitoring mode, since we have had no cases. For information or upcoming changes, you can contact IDPH.”

To learn more, you can visit the official monkeypox page on the IDPH website by clicking the link here. You can also visit the CDC’s own page by clicking here.

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