The cases of monkeypox in Chicago date back to the International Mr. Leather (IML) conference held in the city May 26-30.
Five new cases of monkeypox have been identified in Illinois’ largest city, bringing the total number of cases in the city to seven, as of June 12. International Mr. Leather is a conference and competition for leatherworkers (members of the leather sexual subculture) and the BDSM community.
The Chicago Department of Public Health said in a statement: “Some of the current cases involve people who have recently traveled to Europe. A Chicago resident said he attended the Mr. Leather International Conference (IML) in Chicago …In addition, out-of-state residents who have been diagnosed with monkeypox have also reported attending the IML conference.”
Monkeypox is a viral infection that now has more than 1,600 cases worldwide, mostly in Europe, with 64 confirmed cases in the United States, according to recent figures from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Many of the initially reported cases of monkeypox worldwide involved communities of men who have sex with men. However, monkeypox is not currently considered a sexually transmitted disease. Anyone can get monkeypox through close contact, regardless of sexual orientation and without having sex.
“It is important to note that the risk of monkeypox is not limited to [men who have sex with men] and not all of the Chicago cases involved men. Anyone who is in close contact with an infectious person is at risk,” read the press release from the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Monkeypox is spread through skin-to-skin contact with someone with monkeypox sores, as well as through direct contact with materials that have touched bodily fluids or wounds, such as clothing or linens. According to the CDC, it can also be spread through respiratory secretions when people have close, face-to-face contact. The CDC said it’s unclear if the virus can be spread via semen and vaginal fluids.
Researchers at the Spallanzani Institute in Rome have identified six of seven patients at the infectious disease research center whose semen contained fragments of monkeypox genetic material. A patient’s sample suggested the virus found in his semen had the potential to infect another person.
These data, however, have not yet been peer reviewed or published. Francesco Vaia, director general of the institute, told Reuters there was not enough evidence to prove that the biological traits of the virus had changed to become sexually transmitted.