Citing the ongoing outbreak of monkeypox, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker declared the virus a public health emergency on Monday, designating Illinois as a “disaster area” regarding the disease.
The announcement follows a spike in case numbers across the state, with more than 500 infections, according to the latest numbers provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationwide, there have been more than 5,100 infections. With the announcement in effect, officials can more easily secure vaccine shipments and ramp up distribution to ensure the hardest-hit communities receive treatment as soon as possible, according to a press release from the Pritzker office.
Health experts said monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral disease that often begins with flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes, and progresses to a rash on the face and body. It was first observed in Africa in 1970, and is usually found in the western and central parts of the continent.
Infection can be passed from person to person through “close physical contact with monkeypox sores, items that have been contaminated with fluids or sores (clothing, bedding, etc.), or through respiratory droplets after prolonged, face-to-face contact,” to the Chicago Department for public health.
“The main source of spread is direct skin-to-skin contact with rashes or sores, and it can happen a lot between our conditions including sexual or intimate contact,” said Dr. Jana Kearns, medical director for environmental health at Dr. Jana Kearns Hospital. CDPH. Monkeypox can also be transmitted in other ways, including sharing drinks and kissing as well as sharing bedding or other intimate items.
“MPV is a rare, but potentially dangerous disease that requires the full mobilization of all available public health resources to prevent its spread,” Pritzker said. “This is why I have declared a state of emergency to ensure smooth coordination between state agencies and all levels of government, thus rapidly increasing our ability to prevent and treat disease.” We’ve seen this virus disproportionately impact the LGBTQ+ community in its initial spread. Here in Illinois, we will ensure that the LGBTQ+ community has the resources they need to stay safe while ensuring members are not stigmatized because they have access to critical healthcare.”
The Biden administration is considering declaring a nationwide public health emergency in response to the growing outbreak, but has not yet done so. Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID response coordinator, said last week that the administration is looking at how declaring a public health emergency strengthens the United States’ response to the outbreak.
“There is no final decision on this and I am aware of it,” Jha said. “It’s an ongoing conversation, but it’s very active at HHS.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra has the authority to declare a public health emergency under the Public Health Services Act. The announcement could help mobilize federal financial assistance for the outbreak response.
Last week, the World Health Organization activated its highest levels of alert, declaring the virus a public health emergency of international concern.