Chicago Monkeypox

‘In The Waiting Game:' Chicago-Area Man Who Contracted Monkeypox Describes His Experiences

Chicago-area resident Macauley Rybar has been isolating for nearly three weeks after he tested positive for monkeypox, and he’s sharing his story as concern about the virus ramps up across the country.

Rybar, 28, says he was unknowingly exposed to the virus during a sexual encounter with an individual visiting Chicago from New York.

“I’m in the waiting game, waiting for that skin lesion to fully scab and fall off so that I’m not contagious and can hopefully get back to my life,” he said.

He says that the person he contracted the virus from did not know that they had the illness at the time.

He initially thought that he had COVID after experiencing flu-like symptoms, but then he developed a skin lesion.

“It started off with what I thought was a pimple or an ingrown hair, then kind of progressed from there,” he said. “It looks similar to a rash. It was pretty uncomfortable and itchy the first week and a half of having it.”

Rybar’s case is one of more than 500 that have been confirmed in Illinois, the third-most of any state in the U.S.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Monday, seeking to speed up the shipments of treatments and vaccines against the virus as case numbers climb.

A majority of the cases reported in the state so far have occurred in Chicago, but with access to treatments and vaccines, experts say that full-scale shutdowns or other mitigations likely won’t be necessary.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 71,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine have been allocated to Illinois, with 28,000 of those doses having been delivered to the state so far.

Currently, federal health officials are recommending that those individuals who are exposed to the virus, or who are at high-risk of being exposed, consider getting vaccinated.

As for Rybar, he’s hoping that the increased attention to the virus will result in more individuals taking advantage of available treatments, and that supply of vaccines and treatments will keep up with that demand.

“I think it’s important to know that there should not be shame or guilt associated with contracting monkeypox,” he said. “It is something that happens in everyday human life and interaction, and there are people out there that will support you and want to help you.”

Howard Brown Health will hold a virtual forum beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to educate the public on the ongoing outbreak of the virus. Signups are available on the department’s Facebook page.

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