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Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are tracking multiple cases of monkeypox that have been reported in several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including the United States. As of June 2, 2022, 19 cases of monkeypox or orthopoxvirus (which is associated with monkeypox) infections have been identified in the U.S. and one in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has issued this memorandum for Illinois healthcare providers.

It’s not clear how the individuals were exposed to monkeypox but cases include people who self-identify as men who have sex with men.

CDC is urging healthcare providers in the U.S. to be alert for patients who have rash illnesses consistent with monkeypox, regardless of whether they have travel or specific risk factors for monkeypox and regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

CDC is working with state and local health officials to identify people who may have been in contact with individuals who have tested positive for monkeypox, so they can monitor their health.

What You Should Do

People who may have symptoms of monkeypox should contact their healthcare provider. The CDC says this includes anyone who:

  1. traveled to central or west African countries, parts of Europe where monkeypox cases have been reported, or other areas with confirmed cases of monkeypox during the month before their symptoms began,
  2. reports contact with a person with confirmed or suspected monkeypox, or
  3. is a man who regularly has close or intimate contact with other men, including men who meet partners through an online website, digital application (“app”), or at a bar or party.

In an article published on medium.com, James Finn, a columnist for the LA Blade, reports that monkeypox most likely started by accident, like most outbreaks, at a festival in the Canary Islands attended by about 80,000 LGBTQ people, just as an outbreak could have stemmed from a gathering of straight people. Because of the origin of the monkeypox outbreak, many of the infections so far have affected men who have sex with men, He suggests putting a temporary hold on visiting crowded indoor clubs or dancing cheek to cheek, delaying plans to visit gay saunas or other venues for sex, putting a hold on hookups, and wearing masks at crowded outdoor fests such as Pride fests.

“That does not mean LGBTQ people caused monkeypox or that we are to blame for the current outbreak,” he writes. “It was an accident. Nevertheless, we need to take sensible precautions.”