Governor Pritzker issues Monkeypox Virus Public Health Emergency Declaration

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Graphic from cdc.gov.
Information from the Governor’s Office and the CDC

CHICAGO, Ill. (August 1, 2022) – Governor Pritzker issued a proclamation on August 1 declaring the monkeypox virus a public health emergency and declaring the state of Illinois a disaster area regarding the disease. The declaration, which applies to the entire state, will allow the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to utilize resources for coordinating logistics across state agencies, efficiently 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.

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on July 23, and the Center for Disease Control has been closely monitoring and consulting with states in addressing the outbreak across the United States. Illinois currently has reported 520 cases of confirmed or presumptive monkeypox virus, the third most in the country. The state has received more than 7,000 doses of vaccine from the federal government, with 13,000 additional doses expected in the near future.

What is monkeypox?

The summary below is taken from the CDC website:

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.

Monkeypox was discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research. Despite being named “monkeypox,” the source of the disease remains unknown. However, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) might harbor the virus and infect people.

The Illinois Department of Health says on its website: “Some of the outbreaks have patients who identify as gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men. These outbreaks are currently under investigation and more information is expected in the future.”

IDPH urges the public to avoid close, skin to skin contact with people who have a rash that might be monkeypox.

Disaster declaration

“MPV is a rare, but potentially serious disease that requires the full mobilization of all available public health resources to prevent the spread,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “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.”

Declaring a state of disaster expands the resources and coordination efforts of state agencies in responding to, treating, and preventing the spread of monkeypox. Proclaiming a state of disaster will allow IDPH to expand vaccine and testing capacities with the help of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and via state and federal recovery and assistance funds. This proclamation will aid in facilitating the complicated logistics and transportation of vaccines across the state to reach the most impacted communities efficiently.

The proclamation takes effect immediately and is in place for 30 days.

Governor Pritzker called on the Department of Health and Human Services to increase Illinois’ vaccine allotment last month in a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

More information is available at www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox.

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