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Monkeypox: International Mr Leather event in Chicago linked to cases

A man scratches his arm
Posed by model (Photo: Shutterstock)

The city of Chicago has issued a warning to residents about monkeypox, telling people who feel sick or have rashes to skip attending big festivals.

So far, eight cases have been identified in the city. At least one has been linked back to the International Mr Leather gathering that took place in the city in late May.

Related: Don’t shun Pride parades because of monkeypox, says WHO

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPB) said in a statement: “Some of the current cases involve individuals who recently traveled to Europe. One Chicago resident reported attending the International Mr. Leather (IML) conference in Chicago from May 26-30. Additionally, residents from another state who were diagnosed with monkeypox also reported attending the IML conference.”

It notes that “Globally, 33 countries have reported more than 1,450 confirmed monkeypox cases. In the United States, 49 confirmed cases have been reported in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Most of the infected individuals have reported only mild symptoms, and none have died.

“Early data suggest that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) make up a high number of cases. It is important to note that the risk of monkeypox is not limited to MSM and not all Chicago cases have been among men.”

Related: Monkeypox: Third suspected case in U.S. investigated in Fort Lauderdale

Monkeypox cases are usually only found in central and western Africa. However, since mid-May, there have been over 1,500 cases in Europe, with the UK reporting over 524 cases.

In the UK, most cases have been amongst gay and bisexual men. It is not regarded as a sexually-transmitted virus but can be passed on by close body contact if someone has lesions. Such contact can obviously occur during sex or close contact at festivals and similar gatherings.

Some of the European cases have been linked back to music festivals and raves.

Last week it emerged that a 48-year-old man with the monkeypox virus traveled from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to Texas.

The individual, who had previously been visiting Berlin, had been visiting a gay-friendly resort in PV in late May when he fell ill. He sought medical advice and was told to isolate while awaiting lab results. Instead, he went to the airport with his partner and traveled back to his home state of Texas. The CDC later confirmed that he’d tested positive for monkeypox.

What is monkeypox

Monkeypox is caused by a virus similar to smallpox. Early symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

It will often be accompanied by a chickenpox-like rash, with lesions tending to eventually scab over and fall off.

Monkeypox lesions
Monkeypox lesions (Photo: UK Health Security Agency)

It’s usually a mild, self-limiting illness, and most people will recover within weeks. However, the deadliest variant of the virus can be fatal for up to one in ten of those infected.

The form of the virus currently circulating is believed to be milder, with a fatality rate of less than 1 percent. As the CDPB points out, no one is known to have died in this current outbreak.

Anyone who feels unwell and notices an unusual rash is advised to seek medical help.

The Chicago Department of Public Health says, “Individuals attending festivals or other summer events should consider how much close, personal, skin-to-skin contact is likely to occur at the events they plan to attend. If someone feels sick or has rashes or sores, CDPH recommends not attending a gathering, and visiting a healthcare provider as soon as possible.”

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