GARY — Gary officials have confirmed the first case of monkeypox in the city.

An individual was tested in an outpatient lab of Methodist Hospitals Northlake on June 18. The patient was confirmed to have monkeypox June 19, Gary Health Commissioner Dr. Roland Walker said.

The case is one of just two confirmed positive cases in the state.

The disease was confirmed in Chicago at the start of June. It was identified in a man who had recently traveled to Europe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are currently 15 cases in Illinois and one in Ohio. As of June 12, the City of Chicago had identified seven cases.

“We have confirmation that the city of Gary has one of the first reported cases of monkeypox in the state of Indiana. Considering our proximity to Chicago, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this virus has spread to the city of Gary,” Mayor Jerome Prince said during a Tuesday morning news conference.

The individual who tested positive at Methodist Northlake is currently isolating. Walker said the Gary Health Department believes they have traced everyone the individual came in contact with.

Monkeypox symptoms include a blistering rash, fatigue, fevers, chills, headaches, muscle aches, backaches and swollen lymph nodes. It is spread through person-to-person contact with body fluids, sores or contaminated items like clothing and bed sheets. Individuals are considered infectious until all of the rash scabs have fallen off and a new layer of skin has grown.

Walker said the disease often spreads through close, direct contact such as kissing, cuddling or sexual intercourse. Pregnant women can spread the disease to their unborn child, and humans can contract monkeypox from animals through direct contact or by eating meat from an infected animal, Walker said.

There are currently 113 cases of monkeypox in the U.S. and 2,525 globally.

According to the CDC, monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when there were two outbreaks of a "pox-like" disease among research monkeys. It has largely been identified in African countries; however in 2022 monkeypox was reported in several countries not usually linked to the disease.

“Monkeypox is not a pandemic. It is endemic in Africa," Walker said. "Monkeypox is a rare disease similar to smallpox, and it is caused by the monkeypox virus.”

So far in 2022, monkeypox has been identified in 37 countries.

Walker said that because of privacy concerns, he could not disclose if the patient tested at Methodist Northlake has recently traveled internationally.

The strain of monkeypox identified in the 2022 outbreak is the West African strain, which is "rarely fatal," according to the CDC. The disease has a greater impact on young children, people with a history of eczema, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding and individuals with a weakened immune system.

“There is no reason to be alarmed, and there is absolutely no reason to panic," Prince said. "We do not believe that monkeypox is as easily transmitted as COVID-19."

Walker urged individuals displaying monkeypox symptoms to contact their primary care provider and remain isolated.

There are currently no treatments specifically for the monkeypox disease; however antiviral drugs and vaccines used to protect against smallpox, such as tecovirimat, may be used to treat monkeypox infections, according to the CDC.

During the news conference, Walker also gave an update on the city's current COVID-19 status. He said that Gary has a seven-day average of eight cases and that Lake County has a seven-day average of 101.

On Monday, "we had one of our better days" with only three positive COVID-19 cases reported in Gary, Walker said.

However, with the rise of at-home tests, Walker said, some of the data could be inaccurate because individuals are not reporting positive tests. He urged residents to report all positive tests, get vaccinated and boosted, and continue to mask during large, indoor gatherings.

Positive cases can be reported at coronavirus.in.gov or by calling the Indiana Department of Health at 866-211-9966.

Last week, the CDC declared that all children over six months of age are eligible for the vaccine. Walker said the Gary Health Department got a shipment of vaccines over the weekend.

“While things are improving, the pandemic has not ended,” Walker said.

Prince said the city will continue to provide updates on both the COVID-19 pandemic and the monkeypox outbreak.

“I know that we have been through a lot together, and I remind you, as I did in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, that we will continue to make progress ... as long as we all stay calm and watch out for each other,” Prince said.

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