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Pritzker declares monkeypox a public health emergency in Illinois

Illinois is up to 520 confirmed or presumptive positive cases of monkeypox

Mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions are seen in an electron microscope. (CDC via AP, File)

With Illinois’ monkeypox case count now past 500, Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday declared the monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency and the state as a disaster area regarding the disease.

Illinois is up to 520 confirmed or presumptive positive cases of monkeypox, third most in the nation.

“MPV is a rare, but potentially serious disease that requires the full mobilization of all available public health resources to prevent the spread,” Pritzker said in a news release. “That’s why I am declaring a state of emergency to ensure smooth coordination between state agencies and all levels of government, thereby increasing our ability to prevent and treat the disease quickly. We have seen this virus disproportionately impact the LGBTQ+ community in its initial spread. Here in Illinois we will ensure our LGBTQ+ community has the resources they need to stay safe while ensuring members are not stigmatized as they access critical health care.”

Monkeypox is a rare, but potentially serious viral illness, which belongs to the Orthopoxvirus family, and typically begins with flu-like symptoms and swelling of the lymph nodes. It progresses to a rash on the face and body. Most infections last 2 to 4 weeks.

Monkeypox is typically endemic to parts of central and west Africa, and people can be exposed through bites or scratches from rodents and small mammals, preparing wild game or having contact with an infected animal or possibly animal products.

The declaration applies to the entire state and will allow the Illinois Department of Public Health to utilize resources for coordinating logistics across state agencies and aid in the distribution of vaccines and in the prevention and treatment of the disease. The proclamation will also assist state agencies in coordinating response with the federal government.

“A comprehensive and swift response is key when containing a disease outbreak,” IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said in a news release. “These measures will allow the state to deploy all our resources in fighting this disease and will open efficient lines of communication and cooperation across state lines, an essential step in tracking monkeypox and improving tools and processes to prevent and address it.”

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on July 23.

Pritzker’s declaration also authorizes emergency procurements to facilitate the state’s response. The proclamation takes effect immediately according to the governor’s office and is in place for 30 days.