On Tuesday, the first probable case of monkeypox was reported in Champaign County, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD).
The World Health Organization describes monkeypox as a potentially serious viral illness, fatal in 3 to 6 percent of cases.
CUPHD administrator Julie Pryde said that monkeypox is spread in numerous ways, though her department approaches it like a sexually transmitted disease.
“It can also be transmitted by touching items, such as clothing or linens that have been previously touched by the infectious rash or body fluids, and pregnant individuals can spread it to the fetus through the placenta,” Pryde said.
She said that symptoms are wide-ranging, but that the hallmark sign is a rash that looks like pimples or blisters. Pryde said people exhibiting that symptom should see a doctor right away.
Pryde recommended people communicate with their partners, avoid direct contact with rashes and blisters, and get tested if there’s any concern.
Smallpox vaccine appears to be effective in preventing monkeypox infection in people. The federal CDC has been releasing supplies of the vaccine for people who are deemed to be at high risk of infection. But Pryde doesn’t recommend the vaccine for the general public, and said that in any case, it’s in limited supply.
According to the CDC, there are over one hundred cases of monkeypox in Illinois — the third most reported in the country.
Pryde said monkeypox should be taken seriously, but that people have a higher risk of getting COVID-19.
“What people aren’t taking seriously, but need to be is COVID because that’s what people are really at risk for,” Pryde said. “We just reported three deaths (locally) last week.”
Since Pryde was interviewed for this story, the CUPHD has reported an additional COVID-19 death in Champaign County, for an all-time total of 300.
Harrison Malkin is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow him @HarrisonMalkin