Vaccinations Urged as Mpox Cases Increase – NBC Chicago

It’s not the spike we saw last summer, but cases of mpox, formerly called monkeypox, have ticked up in Chicago in the last few weeks.

“Since the last week in April, we’ve seen about five to eight cases per week of mpox being diagnosed,” said Dr. Elizabeth Davis, Medical Director of Community Health Equity at RUSH University Medical Center.

That may not seem like a lot, but Davis is concerned.

“We know from our experience last summer, that mpox can spread quickly,” Davis said.

That’s why RUSH is fighting mpox on two fronts.

“Prevention and cure, so I’m on the cure end,” said Dr. Shivanjali Shankeran, an assistant professor in Infectious Diseases at RUSH.

RUSH is one of three Illinois sites conducting a clinical trial, called STOMP (Study of Tecovirimat for Human Monkeypox Virus), for a potential antiviral medication called tecovirimat.

“It’s an antiviral that had been approved a few years ago for the treatment of smallpox. And so we have now sort of repurposed it to see if it will work in the treatment of mpox,” Dr. Shankeran said.

Interested patients may call 312-563-1345 to take part in the clinical trial. 

According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, more than half of the recent mpox cases have occurred in people who are fully vaccinated. Preliminarily, most of the cases have been mild.

Dr. Brad Perkins, spent 20 years strategizing against outbreaks for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He says that data shouldn’t deter high risk individuals from getting the two-dose JYNNEOS vaccine to protect against mpox.

“Well, vaccines aren’t perfect. And one of the things we know about this particular vaccine is that, although it may not prevent the occurrence of disease, it is very likely to reduce the severity of people that have been vaccinated,” Perkins said.

Perkins is now the Chief Medical Officer for Karius, a company that has developed a blood test that they say can detect mpox before skin lesions appear.

“Right now, we are focused on offering that test to immunocompromised patients that are hospitalized with suspected infection,” Perkins said.

Already used at RUSH and other Chicago area hospitals, the goal is to expand to outpatient clinics in the future.

Meanwhile, the push now is to get people protected ahead of Pride Month, which starts June 1.

RUSH is offering vaccine clinics every Friday and also partnering with community organizations to reach individuals who are considered high risk.

“I would recommend anyone who identifies as a gay, bisexual or same gender loving man, as a transgender individual who’s sexually active, or as someone who’s had contact with someone with impacts get vaccinated,” Davis said.

To get tested for mpox or to find out if you are eligible for the vaccine, call RUSH at (888) 352-7874 (RUSH).

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