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Expert: We’re dealing with an even more contagious COVID-19 subvariant, but the public’s risk of another disease, monkeypox, is low

CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s been almost three months since city leaders dropped COVID-19 restrictions — but as we head into summer, experts warn we could see more COVID cases.

As CBS 2’s Sabrina Franza reported, Chicago is expected to become a high-risk area for COVID-19 as early as this week.

Meanwhile, we are also hearing new reports of another disease – monkeypox – with cases appearing around the world and right here in the United States.

Franza spoke with Kiran Joshi, chief medical officer for the Cook County Department of Public Health.

Monkeypox is rarely identified outside of Africa, but as of Friday there were 80 confirmed cases worldwide, including at least two in the United States, and another 50 suspected cases. The first case was confirmed in Massachusetts last week and authorities in New York were investigating another suspected infection. No infections have been reported in Illinois.

Although the disease belongs to the same virus family as smallpox, its symptoms are milder. People usually recover in two to four weeks without needing to be hospitalized, but the disease is sometimes fatal.

Joshi said monkeypox involves “flu-like symptoms — so maybe fever, body aches, maybe upper respiratory issues — and then there’s a rash.”

Should people care? President Joe Biden said the cases in Europe and the United States are “something to be concerned about”, but Joshi stressed: “I think the risk to the public from monkeypox is very low. “.

He predicts that the epidemic will be contained.

“You don’t see these big, big outbreaks of hundreds or thousands of cases,” Joshi said.

But harder to contain, of course, is the ever-evolving coronavirus pandemic.

“We are dealing with a new subvariant, the Omicron variant, which appears to be more contagious,” Joshi said.

BA.2.12.1 is a sub-variant of Omicron.

Chicago is expected to reach a high level of transmission as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as early as this week.

“Although hospitalizations are not increasing to the level we have seen before, they are still increasing,” Joshi said.

He advised getting vaccinated and boosting if you are eligible.

“One of our main goals here has been to protect the healthcare system,” Joshi said.

We asked about the possibility that Chicago could reinstate its mask mandate. We’re told that’s a possibility – if hospitals become too overwhelmed.

Currently, there is no pressure on Chicago hospitals.


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