Monkeypox Cases Linked to International Mr. Leather Gay Conference in Chicago

by Emell Adolphus

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday June 16, 2022

The monkeypox virus
The monkeypox virus  (Source:CDC)

The U.S. has reported a total of 72 cases of monkeypox (and counting) across 18 states in the last month. As it currently stands, it is the country's largest monkeypox outbreak to date.

Seven of those cases have been confirmed in residents of Chicago, Illinois, reported ABC 7. Recently public health officials linked some of Chicago's most recent cases to people who attended the International Mr. Leather (IML) conference from May 26 to 30.

According to a press release from the Chicago Dept. of Public Health about the recent confirmed monkeypox cases, residents with confirmed cases in other states also reported attending the gay event. Other people reported recent travels to Europe.

With Chicago being an international travel hub, "it was inevitable that we would see a case or two, possibly more, in Chicago," said Dr. Irfan Hafiz, chief medical officer for Northwestern Medicine Northwest Region.

Monkeypox is not a new virus. Around since the 1950s, the majority of cases have come from central and west Africa. Symptoms include rashes, sores and lesions that often look severe, as well as fever and muscle aches

"Even though it's not likely to be transmitted to a large number of people like COVID, the people that get it can be pretty sick," said Dr. John Segreti, an epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center.

Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox is spread through close, skin-to-skin contact. However, the virus is not a sexually transmitted disease, and it is not a "gay disease." Any comparisons of could set a dangerous precedent and put communities at risk, said the World Health Organization.

"Given this is not a gay disease, the transmission routes are common to everybody," said Andy Seale, a strategies adviser in the WHO Department of Global HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections Programmes.

Common transmission rates have raised alarms in many countries, with a top Russian virus expert recently saying that he is "afraid" that gay sex just can't be used to explain the spread of monkeypox.

"Today, no one can explain why this infection, which was endemic to the African continent, is spreading across the globe for no apparent reason," said microbiologist Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

He added, "I am afraid that it cannot be explained by untraditional sexual contacts only. The number of confirmed cases is growing day after day."

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control reported that 1,158 monkeypox cases have been recorded across 22 EU/EEA countries. Worldwide, the center reports 1,882 cases have been confirmed.