PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The White House is declaring monkeypox a public health emergency, meanwhile cases in Illinois are creeping up.
On Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared the virus a public health emergency and according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, as of Wednesday, there were 547 confirmed monkeypox cases in the state.
Illinois trails just behind California and New York as the most confirmed monkeypox cases in the country.
Those infections haven’t seemed to have stricken the local area as of yet. Local health leaders said there currently have been no confirmed cases of monkeypox virus (MPV) in neither the Tri-County area nor McLean County.
“Health departments are being asked to monitor the best of their capabilities, however, Illinois Department of Public Health is putting all of their focus in the Chicago area region,” Deric Kimler, the executive director of Central Illinois Friends.
Kimler said the most positive and extreme cases are currently found in Chicago.
Health officials said the virus is mainly spread through close-up and skin-to-skin contact with someone who is already infected, and it can be transmitted by exposure to respiratory droplets.
“You would either have to be touching somebody, you would have to have face-to-face contact, or you would have to share towels or linens with them when they are acutely infected to have a significant exposure,” Dr. Douglas Kasper, an infectious disease physician with OSF HealthCare, said.
On the subject of potential vaccines, the Peoria City County Health Department sent the following response:
“At Peoria City/County Health Department, we continue to monitor monkeypox and work with our health care providers when they have questions. We do not have any confirmed monkeypox in Peoria County. Currently, IDPH distributes vaccines based on confirmed cases in counties, and then they allocate by high-risk populations.”
Although health leaders said transmission is high amongst men who have sex with men, Kimler wanted to clarify that the virus does not discriminate and anyone can contract it.
“Anybody’s at risk,” Kimler said. “There is nothing different than a man who has sex with men than anyone else who can possibly transmit this during sexual activity.”
He also said scarce resources are stopping vaccines from proactively coming to the Tri-County area, but in the meantime, Central Illinois Friends is offering education on the subject.
“All of us should be talking to our partners before engaging in sexual health, period,” Kimler said.
Officials with the Peoria City/County Health Department said health providers in Peoria County who are seeing patients will review the criteria, such as exposure, risk, and symptoms for monkeypox. They will decide on a case-by-case basis whether to test for it.