Mpox cases surge as IDPH urges vaccinations ahead of festival season

FILE - This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. A leading doctor who chairs a World Health Organization expert group described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as "a random event" that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP, File)

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced that cases of mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) are on the rise in Chicago and suburban Cook County. Those at-risk for mpox exposure are urged to take precautions and to get vaccinated, if they are not already, ahead of the spring and summer festival and Pride season. Since March, 24 mpox cases have been confirmed with two additional probable cases. All cases were among symptomatic men, a majority of whom had received two doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine.

Since the outbreak in 2022, mpox has primarily been transmitted through close, sustained physical contact, almost exclusively associated with sexual contact. This is why it is important for those at risk to stay up to date on sexual health care. IDPH encourages individuals to be open with their medical providers about their practices and activities that could increase their risk of getting mpox, in order to get timely and appropriate testing, treatment and prevention services, including vaccines. Though mpox infections have been primarily reported among gay, bisexual, nonbinary and transgender people, any person may be at-risk for contracting and spreading mpox.

Vaccinations for those who could benefit from mpox vaccines continue to be one of the most important protective measures. Cases among vaccinated people can still occur, but people who have completed their two-dose JYNNEOS vaccine series typically experience less severe symptoms and hospitalizations than those who have not. The CDC found that mpox cases were 14 times higher among unvaccinated males compared with those who received at least a first vaccine dose. No additional doses of vaccine are currently recommended for those previously infected by mpox or those who have already had two doses of mpox vaccine.

Mpox vaccination is recommended for anyone living in Illinois who:

  • Had skin-to-skin or intimate contact (e.g., household members with close physical contact or intimate partners) with someone diagnosed with mpox
  • Has had sex at a commercial sex venue (like a sex club or bathhouse)
  • Has had sex related to a large commercial event or in a geographic area (city or county for example) where mpox virus transmission is occurring
  • Has had sex in exchange for money or other items
  • Lives with HIV, especially persons not in HIV care or not regularly taking HIV medications
  • Is eligible for or is currently taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to help prevent infection with HIV
  • Is a sexually active bisexual, gay, non-binary or transgender person.
  • Sexual partners of those cited above or individuals who anticipate meeting the above criteria in the future

Especially consider getting vaccinated if you:

  • Met recent partners online, or at clubs, raves, sex parties or saunas
  • Were diagnosed with an STI in the past six months

Do get both doses of the mpox vaccine if you have not been vaccinated and benefit from the vaccine or received only one so far. The best protection against mpox occurs two weeks after the second shot, so plan ahead!

People who are vaccinated should continue to avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has mpox.

If you have symptoms of mpox, visit a trusted health care provider to get tested, even if you have been vaccinated.

Warmer months are full of events that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Prepare for this Pride season by staying healthy before, during and after these celebrations.

Shaw Local News Network

Shaw Local News Network

Shaw Local News Network provides local news throughout northern Illinois