by Benjamin Tschirhart
Officials say the danger to general population and staff in Chicago’s Cook County Jail is low following a case of monkeypox there that was announced on July 21, 2022.
The office of Sheriff Tom Dart said that the infected detainee was a recent admission to the jail, who had been in medical isolation since symptoms of the disease first appeared on July 19, 2022. Contact tracing is also being done, part of the “swift action” taken to stop the spread of infection in the close quarters of the jail, one of the country’s largest, with an average daily population over 5,700.
The head of the city’s Health Department, Dr. Allison Arwady, has reported 202 cases of monkeypox in Chicago and encouraged those with symptoms to get tested. Those infected have been between the ages of 22 and 66 years old. The disease, a less-lethal relative of the smallpox virus, is believed to have jumped from monkeys to humans in Africa. It is characterized by fever, muscle aches, an itchy rash that initially looks like small bumps, and swollen lymph nodes.
Reports indicate that the disease is currently found most often among men who engage in sex with other men. The vector of transmission is believed to be intimate touching, rather than though body fluids exchanged during sex. Dr. Arwady advises those showing symptoms to avoid intimate contact or sharing bedding while their health is in question.
Explained Dr. Sharon Welbel, director of hospital epidemiology and infection control at Cook County Health, “The way [transmission] typically seems to happen is that there is a lesion and it bursts or it’s opened up and it gets into a scratch or something one can’t even see but a crack in the skin.”
She said the virus doesn’t spread “by bumping up against somebody, being in the same room as somebody, sharing a seat with somebody,” but rather “takes prolonged contact.”
Other health experts add there is no evidence that the virus is airborne. An infectious disease physician with Howard Brown Health, Dr. Amu Hazra, cautioned that though the majority of U.S. and European cases so far involve gay and bisexual men, “the virus doesn't care how you identify.”
Chicago has received 5,400 doses of the monkeypox vaccine to date, with another 15,000 doses expected soon from the federal government plus 2,160 more from the state.
Sources: WBEZ, WMAQ
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