Monkey pox has been declared a public health emergency by the governor of Illinois. JB Pritzker

Gov. On Monday, JB Pritzker declared the spreading monkeypox virus a public health emergency.

Illinois has the third-highest incidence of monkeypox after New York and California. Pritzker’s declaration designating the state a monkeypox “disaster area” will allow public health officials to respond more aggressively to the outbreak, the governor’s office said.

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

The declaration, effective immediately and for 30 days, will allow state agencies to coordinate more effectively and use new tools to fight the disease, the governor said in a statement.

The Illinois Department of Health is now expanding vaccine and testing capacity with the help of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to access state and federal recovery and relief funds, the release said. The declaration will also help ease vaccination logistics, the statement added.

“These measures will allow the state to use all our resources to fight this disease and open effective lines of communication and cooperation across state lines, which is an important step in controlling monkeypox and improving the tools and processes to prevent and solve it,” said Dr. Sameer Vohra, Director of the Illinois Department of Health.

Pritzker’s emergency declaration follows a July 23 announcement by the World Health Organization. San Francisco’s mayor declared a virus emergency on Thursday, and New York’s mayor declared one on Saturday.

Illinois currently has 520 confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox, the governor said in a statement. One-tenth of the nation’s cases originated in Illinois.

Most of the state’s cases have been in Chicago, among the worst-hit cities in the country. Chicago has seen a sharp increase in infections over the past week, with a total of 326 cases as of Wednesday.

Chicago does not need to declare a state of emergency because the city is under statehood, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Allison Arvady, the city’s public health commissioner, said in a joint statement.

“This emergency declaration brings much-needed, heightened attention to the monkeypox (MPV) outbreak we are seeing in Chicago, our state and across the country,” they said in a statement. “Ultimately, we need more support at the federal level to fully address the MPV threat to our city.”

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Public health officials at all levels say the virus is most commonly spread among men who have sex with other men. The Chicago Department of Public Health has targeted vaccinations for this group, particularly those with multiple or anonymous partners, but there is nothing to limit the spread of the disease to men who have sex with men, Arvadi said several times.

“Here in Illinois, we ensure that our LGBTQ+ community has the resources they need to be safe, while ensuring that members are not stigmatized for seeking health care,” Pritzker said.

The state has received 7,000 doses of the vaccine from the federal government and expects another 13,000 doses in the near future, the statement said. Most of the doses received were shared with the Chicago Health Department.

Health care providers and gay men in Chicago have called for a stronger response to the epidemic and vaccines amid a national shortage. Pritzker called on the federal government to ramp up vaccination efforts in late July. The next day, the Chicago Department of Public Health announced that it would prioritize first doses with the new vaccine stockpile, a move that would delay many second shots.

Monkeypox virus, related to smallpox, was first identified in humans in the 1970s and is endemic in parts of west and central Africa. The disease usually begins with flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes, before the body develops a painful, clear, large rash that looks like pimples or blisters. Monkey pox symptoms can last up to four weeks

jsheridan@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @jakesheridan_

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