Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday declared monkeypox a public health emergency and the state of Illinois a disaster area after 520 cases of the viral disease were confirmed — giving Illinois the third-highest case count in the nation.
“MPV [monkeypox virus] is a rare, but potentially serious disease that requires the full mobilization of all available public health resources to prevent the spread,” Pritzker said in a statement.
The proclamation allows the Illinois Department of Public Health to better coordinate logistics across state agencies and get help in distributing vaccines to prevent and treat the disease. It also helps Illinois better coordinate help from the federal government.
Illinois has reported 520 cases of confirmed or presumptive monkeypox virus, according to state public health officials. The majority of those cases are in Chicago, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health, which on July 28 reported 330 cases and 14 hospitalizations stemming from monkeypox.
Pritzker on July 20 sent a letter to Secretary Xavier Becerra, head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, outlining the lack of available vaccines in Chicago and Illinois, despite it being the state with the third most cases in the country. New York has reported the highest number of cases, followed by California.
New York had already declared a public health emergency over monkeypox infections, and California did so on Monday.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said then that it planned to “strengthen and accelerate” its strategy on combatting monkeypox and work with public health officials to get vaccines, testing and treatments out to communities across the country.
A week ago, the city received an additional 15,000 doses of the vaccine, its largest allotment to date, but demand continues to outpace supply, health officials said.
The state has received more than 7,000 doses of vaccine from the federal government, with 13,000 additional doses expected to be sent “in the near future.” Pritzker has been directing doses from the state’s supply to help Chicago.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday called the state proclamation “a necessary, increased focus” on the virus. Lightfoot said while the city’s health department has been working diligently to raise awareness and vaccinate residents, more help is needed.
“Ultimately, however, we need more support from the federal level to fully address the threat MPV presents to our city,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “It is our hope that this declaration joins a chorus of others across the nation and encourages the rapid increase and distribution of vaccines.”
Monkeypox is spread through close contact, and although anyone can get monkeypox, it has disproportionally affected members of the LGBTQ community, particularly men who have sex with other men.
People diagnosed with monkeypox tend to experience flu-like symptoms, followed by a rash that can look like pimples or blisters. There are no known deaths from the illness.
Pritzker’s proclamation takes effect immediately and will be in place for 30 days.