Illinois Public Health Association Launches Mpox Awareness Campaign
IPHA calls on rural Illinois communities to seek mpox preventative resources
New text messaging, community reporting services advance vaccination efforts in central and southern Illinois
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (May 1, 2023) – Gay and bisexual Illinoisans, residents with immunocompromising conditions, and anyone who may have been exposed to the mpox (formerly Monkeypox) virus are encouraged to schedule mpox vaccination appointments as soon as possible at local health departments statewide.
Preventable mpox cases have been reported in every Illinois region despite coordinated efforts by state and local health officials and the increasing availability of vaccine doses at public health departments. In announcing its Know Mpox public service campaign, the Illinois Public Health Association (IPHA) unveiled today new text message alerts, a comprehensive digital tool kit, and a grassroots reporting system to help residents, LGBTQ+ resource centers, and Community Health Workers statewide locate nearby mpox treatments and preventative services.
“We must not allow stigma and access issues to widen health equity gaps and limit access to the mpox vaccine,” said Jeffery Erdman, IPHA’s associate executive director. “The Illinois Public Health Association has a long, successful history of working with minority communities and rural health providers to eliminate barriers to the care they need. With the Know Mpox campaign, we will build on our commitment to advocating on behalf of Illinois’ public health system and ensuring equitable access to care throughout the state.”
Mpox, or MPV, is a viral infection transmitted through intimate, physical contact. During the 3 to 17-day incubation period, a person typically does not notice any symptoms, but those with mpox typically experience a rash on their hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth or near the genitals. Some other side effects include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, headaches, and respiratory symptoms.
Early mpox case data suggest the virus disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men. Additional studies backed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest people with moderate to severe immunocompromising conditions, such as HIV, are also at an elevated risk.
Governor JB Pritzker issued a statewide disaster declaration and public health emergency in August 2022 to coordinate the state and local government mpox response. In Illinois, more than 1,435 mpox cases have been reported to the state’s Department of Public Health from 25 counties. Nevertheless, a persistent misconception about mpox is it only poses a threat in densely populated areas, such as the Chicago metropolitan area.
Funding for Know Mpox is possible through a grant from the Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH).
“IDPH is pleased to be supporting the Know Mpox campaign to promote the availability of mpox vaccines and treatments in central and Southern Illinois,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “Although the state and federal mpox disaster declarations have expired, preventing mpox remains an important public health priority. We are committed to working with IPHA, our local health department partners and other stakeholders to raise awareness about this preventable disease.”
Mpox vaccine appointments now a text message away
Illinois residents can now sign up to receive mpox care resources and vaccine appointment information through SMS text message. Registration for the service is free through IPHA’s Know Mpox campaign.
Anyone interested in signing up for this service should text “Mpox+” followed by their five-digit U.S. mail postal code to 36363. The service also offers vaccine appointment reminders, mpox symptom information, and verifiable messages from healthcare providers.
Free Mpox public service media, vaccine assistance now available
Federal and state authorities have opened access to JYNNEOS vaccine doses to public health departments throughout Illinois, despite earlier indications they would only be available in high-risk areas. However, finding these mpox vaccine doses and getting people to them can be significant burdens in impoverished, sparsely populated areas.
A community reporting system setup through KnowMpox.org allows health officials and the public to report any obstacles between them and mpox vaccination. Reports received by IPHA staff may be referred to local authorities or Illinois’ network of Community Health Workers – trained frontline public health advocates who serve as trusted liaisons to care services and verifiable health information.
Community Health Workers, public health departments, and community advocates alike are encouraged to file an “Mpox Community Health Ticket” and access a comprehensive digital tool kit of flyers, social media posts, and mpox public service media at KnowMpox.org.