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Monkeypox in Chicago – Innovative Care Now Offering Evaluation and Testing

Monkeypox is spreading in Chicago. Will it be the next widespread pandemic? No, we certainly hope not, but you should be aware of the virus as illness continues to spread. Dr. Khare, founder and CEO of Innovative Care, summarizes what we know about monkeypox currently, and how we are handling monkeypox evaluation and testing

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare, but potentially serious illness that typically begins with flu-like symptoms and progresses to a rash. The monkeypox virus belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae. This family of viruses also includes smallpox. The first known human case of monkeypox was in 1970. 

How is monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox can spread when someone comes in contact with an infected animal, person or material. The virus can also cross the placenta from a mother to a fetus. The most common transmission is through direct contact with body fluids or sores on an infected person. Intimate contact such as during sex, kissing, cuddling, or touching parts of the body with monkeypox sores may also spread the virus. 

Is there a treatment for Monkeypox?

There is no specific treatment for monkeypox at this time. Scientists are exploring whether the use of smallpox antivirals may be beneficial to individuals who contract monkeypox. Many individuals with monkeypox have mild disease, during which they are advised to avoid direct contact with others. 

What should I do if I have been exposed to monkeypox?

Monkeypox cases are climbing in Chicago. If you have a known exposure to monkeypox, you should monitor for monkeypox symptoms for a period of 21 days. Symptoms to watch for include: 

  • Fever greater than 100.4F. The CDC recommends taking your temperature twice daily during the 21 day period. 
  • Chills
  • New skin rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes
What if I develop monkeypox symptoms? 

If you develop symptoms, you should self-isolate and contact a health professional for further guidance. Innovative Care is seeing monkeypox patients at our Chicago urgent care location at 2400 N. Ashland Avenue in Lincoln park. Telemedicine consults are available daily and are recommended for the first evaluationAppointments can be made online

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Per the CDC, monkeypox illness begins with the following: 

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

Approximately 1 to 3 days after the onset of fever, the patient develops a rash. This rash commonly begins on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body. Lesions then progress through various stages before they fall off. Monkeypox illness typically lasts for 2−4 weeks. 

Will Innovative Care see patients with monkeypox?

Yes. Innovative Care is seeing patients for monkeypox evaluation and testing at our urgent care located at 2400 N. Ashland Avenue in Lincoln Park. We are working with the Chicago Health Department to send samples for testing if needed. We will have our own testing soon, but at this time, the only testing available is at the state level and then another round of testing at the CDC

Patients who wish to have a monkeypox evaluation can schedule an appointment online.

Evusheld & Paxlovid Available In-Clinic

COVID antibody and prophylactic prescriptions play an important role in curbing the ongoing pandemic, but they can also be hard to find. Not anymore. Paxlovid, an antiviral prescription medication, and Evusheld, a prophylactic medication for high risk individuals are now available at Innovative Care. If our medical provider recommends Paxlovid or Evusheld for your use, you will get your prescription AND the medication immediately on-site at our clinic. 

What is Paxlovid? 

Paxlovid is available by prescription only for patients age 12 and older. Paxlovid should be taken as soon as possible after diagnosis of COVID-19, and within five days of symptom onset. Review the FDA patient fact sheet for more information about this FDA EUA approved oral medication for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19. 

What is Evusheld? 

Evusheld is an investigational medicine used for the most vulnerable patient populations to be used before COVID exposure. Evusheld is designed to prevent infection. It is not a treatment for COVID. Two categories of patients qualify for Evusheld:

  1. Those who have a moderately to severely compromised immune system due to a medical condition, or due to taking immunosuppressive medications or treatments, who therefore may not mount an adequate immune response to COVID-19 vaccination. Qualifying medical conditions include, but are not limited to, the following:
    • Active treatment for solid tumor and hematologic malignancies
    • Receipt of solid-organ transplant and taking immunosuppressive therapy
    • Receipt of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplant (within 2 years of transplantation or taking immunosuppression therapy)
    • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (e.g., DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
    • Advanced or untreated HIV infection 
    • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids (i.e., ≥20 mg prednisone or equivalent per day when administered for ≥2 weeks), alkylating agents, antimetabolites, transplant-related immunosuppressive drugs, cancer chemotherapeutic agents classified as severely immunosuppressive, tumor-necrosis (TNF) blockers, and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory (e.g., B-cell depleting agents)
  2. Those who have a history of severe adverse reactions to a COVID-19 vaccine and/or components of those vaccines, and are therefore not eligible (or advised against getting) for the COVID vaccine

Evusheld is not an alternative to vaccine for the average person. It is an additional tool in our arsenal to fight COVID that is designed for a specific patient population. More information can be found in this patient fact sheet. If you believe you qualify for Evusheld, schedule an appointment for a provider evaluation.

Sotrovimab Monoclonal Antibody Treatment

Innovative Care also offers Sotrovimab Monoclonal antibodies, which serve as substitute antibodies that help our immune systems mimic the defense of natural COVID-19 antibodies. Sotrovimab is FDA EUA approved for the treatment of COVID-19.  Review the FDA patient fact sheet for more information. 

Schedule an Appointment

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, schedule an appointment for COVID treatment online. 

If you have a moderately to severely compromised immune system and qualify for Evusheld, schedule an evaluation with one of our medical providers.

New COVID Quarantine & Mask Guidelines

New isolation and mask guidelines have been issued by the CDC for individuals who are COVID-19 positive, or who have been exposed to the virus. The changes include a shorter quarantine period, and mask guidelines for everyone, including those who are fully vaccinated. Here’s what you need to know.

Why did the guidelines change? 

Omicron is spreading rapidly, putting hundreds of thousands people in isolation due to positive cases or exposure to the virus. This is putting a strain on our healthcare system, small businesses and our economy overall. Some businesses have been without enough people to work, forcing them to close for periods of time. 

In addition, omicron appears to be a much milder variant than previous COVID-19 variants such as delta. As such, most people will experience only minor symptoms, and some no symptoms at all. 

Why do we need to quarantine at all if omicron is so mild? 

While the omicron COVID-19 variant will only produce mild illness for most, it’s important to remember that there are a considerable number of people who remain at high risk for complications from the virus. We must continue to take precautions to protect the elderly, immunocompromised individuals, and people with health conditions that make them susceptible to severe illness. 

Is it risky to come off of quarantine so soon? 

Masks are key. If you are feve free and have only mild symptoms (or no symptoms) after five days, it’s relatively safe to come out of quarantine as long as you continue to take precautions such as masking, washing your hands regularly, etc. Individuals who have not completed a full 10 day quarantine for a positive case, or who have been exposed to COVID-19, should wear a mask (even if vaccinated).  

Visit the CDC for more information about the new COVID quarantine and mask protocols. 

 

Teens Age 16-17 Now Eligible for a COVID Booster

Teen COVID BoosterLate last week, the CDC announced that teens age 16 and 17, who had their second COVID vaccine at least six months ago, should receive a booster dose

Only the Pfizer vaccine may be given as the booster dose for the 16-17 age group at this time. Patients 18 and older may receive either a Pfizer or Moderna booster per the CDC.  

Getting the booster is currently the best way to reduce the spread of the new variant, Omicron.

Booster vaccines (and dose 1 and 2 vaccines) are available at our Downers Grove clinic. Schedule online or simply walk-in for an appointment. 

We know that COVID news is constantly changing and it can be tough to keep up. Visit us online and keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates on vaccines, monoclonal antibody COVID treatment, antiviral medications and more.

4 Facts About the Omicron COVID Variant

As families started to gather for the holiday season, news broke of a new COVID variant that has the potential to wreak havoc on lightened mitigations and spread like wildfire. The omicron variant has been detected in nearly 40 countries, including the United States. As news reports fly in, many people have been asking me what this all means. Below are four facts about omicron that I want you to know. 

Omicron is a reminder that COVID is not over.

Viruses mutate and change, which can dramatically impact how serious and how contagious they are. We know omicron is highly contagious. We do not yet have enough data to determine its severity, but early reports out of Africa suggest symptoms may be mild to moderate for most people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), symptoms of omicron are the same as previous COVID strains. The new strain has been confirmed in nearly 40 countries, and just this week, Omicron was identified in the United States

Our existing PCR and rapid testing methods will identify the omicron variant.

Labs are able to identify which variant is present in a positive test, but don’t expect to see this on your test results. Patients will still see a simple positive or negative reading, because the specific variant type does not change the treatment options, symptoms, or precautions such as isolation timing. 

An additional booster, specific to the new strain, may be necessary.

Scientists are currently studying the omicron variant, which contains 24 changes to the spike protein. This is significantly more than with other variants, such as the delta variant, and as such, may require that people get an additional booster for protection. The good news is, a booster could be developed very quickly, perhaps in as little as six weeks. More information will be available in the coming days and weeks, but I do expect we’ll see additional boosters coming down the pipeline soon. 

The longer a virus is active, the more opportunity it has to mutate and turn into new variants of the original virus.

This is why vaccination is so important. Future iterations of COVID-19 have the potential to be more severe in nature. This could lead to more hospitalizations, or a higher death rate. At this point, we know omicron is highly contagious. It is yet to be seen how severe the symptoms are in comparison to previous variants. If you received your vaccine over six months ago, it’s time for a booster dose. If you are unvaccinated, please reconsider your choice and schedule a vaccine appointment at our Downers Grove clinic.  

Our COVID clinics are now full respiratory health testing sites. If you are symptomatic, our providers will evaluate your symptoms (ears, nose, throat, lung) and order the appropriate tests. In addition to COVID/flu,this may include strep throat or mononucleosis (mono).

Our urgent care is also open seven days a week for more complex or urgent needs. Innovative Express Care also offers COVID testing. 

5 Tips for Celebrating Safely this Thanksgiving

Vaccinated or not, you need to bring a dish of precaution to the Thanksgiving table this year. Illinois and the Chicago area are in the midst of a new wave of COVID activity. If your circle is anything like mine, you most likely know someone with COVID right now. Countless kids are quarantined from school and positivity rates are continuing to climb. 

Go for quality over quantity

Keep your table on the smaller side this year. Enjoy quality time with a smaller group versus having a large gathering. The holidays can be just as small when done as an intimate gathering. 

Enjoy the outdoors if possible

While your dinner table may be smaller this year, you can still gather with extended family to celebrate the holiday. Outdoor activities are a safer option than dining in close quarters. Head to Michigan Avenue to see the holiday lights, visit the Christkindlmarket or take a fall nature walk together. You can still enjoy time with loved ones in a safer manner that protects those who are unvaccinated or at high risk of complications from COVID.

Test before you celebrate if not everyone is vaccinated

If you are getting together with children or adults who are unvaccinated, please get a COVID test before you gather. Testing does not eliminate risk altogether, but it is a precaution worth taking. Innovative Care is open through Wednesday for testing, and closed on Thanksgiving day. We will be back open on Black Friday through the weekend. COVID testing is quick and easy. You can schedule online or walk-in for an appointment.

Get vaccinated & boosted

Your best protection for a safe holiday season is to get vaccinated. The holidays are fast approaching. If you get vaccinated now, you can still get your second dose in by the Christmas holiday and be fully vaccinated by New Years. If you were vaccinated, but your second dose was more than six months ago, it’s time for a booster shot. The CDC announced last week that all United States adults over age 18 are now eligible for a booster dose six months after their second shot (if Moderna or Pfizer) or original dose (if Johnson & Johnson) was given. Vaccines are available at our Downers Grove location seven days a week. We have both Moderna and Pfizer available, as well as the pediatric dose of Pfizer.

Unfortunately, we aren’t out of the woods yet. COVID is still running rampant in our community and has been on an upward trend these last few weeks. Our positivity rate at the Diversey clinic is hovering around 10 percent, which is concerning. Please take precautions and continue to take this pandemic seriously as you gather with family and friends this season.

Will the seasonal flu return this year?

Last year was an unprecedented year for many reasons. COVID hit Chicago early in the year, which made working from home the norm and face coverings a part of our daily fashion. As a result, we had a surprisingly nonexistent flu season in 2020. Will that continue to be the case during the 2021/22 season? Likely not according to Dr. Khare. Here’s what he has to say about the upcoming flu season, including when he expects to see activity start, why you should get a flu vaccine and more. 

Q: Will the seasonal flu return this year?

A: Yes, I expect to see flu activity again this season. There are many reasons for this. Adults are coming back to work, kids are back in school, sporting events and theatre are back and quite frankly, people are ready to be out and about again. In addition, mask guidelines are less stringent in many places. Simply put, more interaction between people and less virus precautions will equal greater spread of viruses, including flu. 

Q: Why didn’t we have a flu season in 2020? 

A: In 2020, the majority of people stayed home more than ever before. They worked from home, they ordered groceries, they opted for carryout versus dining out, and schools had numerous virus mitigations including remote learning. All of these measures led to a decrease in flu activity, and fewer illnesses overall, including common things such as strep throat and the common cold. 

Q: Who should be vaccinated for the flu?

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six-months of age and older, unless you are allergic. It is especially important for high-risk individuals, which include infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly, as well as those with underlying health conditions. 

Q: When is the best time to get your flu shot? 

A: I advise patients to get their flu shot by early November so they are protected by Thanksgiving. We generally see flu activity ramp up by late November, with activity continuing through March. There is no reason for a “wait and see” approach, as the flu vaccine carries

Innovative Care offers flu shots at our urgent care clinic daily. You may also get your flu vaccine during visits with our primary care providers, or when you come for a COVID test.

High demand for monoclonal antibodies following positive COVID test

We have seen a tremendous increase in the demand for monoclonal antibodies in the last two months. More people are becoming aware of this FDA EUA authorized treatment for COVID-19, and many patients are immediately searching for monoclonal antibodies upon receiving a positive COVID test. 

Innovative Care began offering monoclonal antibodies at our COVID clinics in September. We have since doubled the amount of appointments available each week in an attempt to meet the demand. We will soon increase the number of appointments again so we can help more people. 

Why all the hype about monoclonal antibodies? 

Monoclonal antibodies are the only FDA EUA authorized outpatient treatment for COVID-19. When administered in the first 10 days that a patient experiences virus symptoms, monoclonal antibodies may significantly reduce the severity of symptoms and thereby lower the incidence of hospitalization. COVID-19 has crippled our healthcare system in many ways. Ensuring there are fewer hospitalizations from COVID-19 is one of the ways we can fight this pandemic. 

Monoclonal antibodies are most commonly administered to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and who have conditions that make them at high risk for complications from the virus. However, family members of a positive patient may also qualify. Does your elderly aunt or grandmother live with you? Does your roommate have a condition that makes them at high risk for complications from COVID? If so, those individuals are also able to receive monoclonal antibodies as a preventative measure to help ensure they do not get sick. 

Are monoclonal antibodies a substitute for vaccination? 

No, monoclonal antibodies are not intended to be in place of the vaccine. However, if you have chosen not to be vaccinated, they are a line of defense for you. Likewise, vaccinated individuals can get monoclonal antibodies to help prevent serious illness. Monoclonal antibodies are another tool in our arsenal to fight COVID-19. 

How do I get an appointment?

If you or a loved one test positive for COVID-19 and wish to get monoclonal antibodies, schedule an appointment online. We offer monoclonal antibodies Monday through Friday between our Chicago and Downers Grove clinics. You can learn more or schedule your visit here

Innovative Care is proud to be among the first clinics in Chicago offering monoclonal antibodies. We have been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in every way possible since it started and we will continue to offer the latest in treatments and testing

Innovative Care to Offer Monoclonal Antibody Treatment to COVID Positive Patients

Monoclonal Antibody Treatment

Regen-COV infusion may lessen severity of virus and reduce the risk of complications for high-risk patients

COVID-19 can be serious, even life-threatening. If you test positive for COVID-19, and have symptoms, seeking monoclonal antibody treatment within the first 10 days may help you fight the virus and avoid serious complications and even death. Monoclonal antibody treatment is intended for people who are at a high risk of serious illness. Innovative Care will begin offering monoclonal antibody treatment to patients. 

Monoclonal antibodies are produced in a laboratory. They serve as substitute antibodies that help our immune systems mimic the defense of natural COVID-19 antibodies. Innovative Care uses the monoclonal antibody Regen-COV (casirivimab and imdevimab, administered together, made by Regeneron) to treat COVID positive patients. This treatment received FDA EUA approval in November, yet it is not widely available. Innovative Care is committed to fighting COVID and proud to offer a treatment for those who are fighting the virus. More information on Regen-COV can be found here. Insurance is accepted for this treatment. 

“We have been here to test and treat patients since the start of the pandemic. This is a natural progression for us to continue serving our community with COVID testing and care,” said Rahul Khare, MD, CEO and founder of Innovative Care. “Monoclonal antibodies attach to the spike protein and may aid your immune system as it works to fight the virus.”

Innovative Care will treat patients who qualify at their dedicated COVID clinic. Each visit begins with a provider consultation. If the patient opts to receive treatment, Regen-COV will be administered during the same appointment. The total infusion time is 20 minutes. Patients may also choose to forgo treatment. More information about what to expect can be found online here.  

Insurance Accepted

Innovative COVID accepts most major insurance plans, and 99 percent of people who get this treatment will not get a bill or pay for monoclonal antibody treatment. If the bill is not covered by insurance, there are funds to get this covered. By this mechanism, patients will not pay anything out of pocket for this treatment. If you do not have any medical insurance, your treatment will be covered under the federal CARES Act. 

More Information

Innovative Care has operated a COVID testing site for nearly 18 months. They are a leader in COVID testing and were among the first in Chicago to offer COVID antibody testing. Innovative Care also offers COVID vaccines at their Downers Grove clinic. For more information, visit Innovative Care online

Concert Goers Who Are Sneezing, Sniffling, Coughing or have a Sore Throat, Should Get Tested for COVID

It’s early in the week, but we are already seeing Lolla concert goers coming in with a sore throat, coughs and sniffles. Does this mean they caught COVID? No, but it does mean that they should be tested for the virus. 

Assume you have been exposed

Events the size of Lollapalooza almost guarantee you have been exposed to COVID. If you are vaccinated, you have a chance of avoiding illness, but please know that breakthrough infections are happening at a high rate. The tricky part is this…people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 typically have only minor symptoms. Oftentimes, these are symptoms that wouldn’t even raise a red flag. The biggest finding from the recent CDC report is that vaccinated people can get COVID-19 AND they are still highly contagious! That’s why we recommend that people be tested if they have any symptom out of the ordinary, even if they are vaccinated. 

Living with COVID

The Delta variant is the dominant strain of COVID going around right now. It is highly contagious, so identifying it as the cause of symptoms early is key to stopping it from spreading. Innovative Care offers COVID testing seven days a week at our Lincoln Park clinic. We also have a COVID testing site in Downers Grove

The best protection against COVID-19 is to increase the number of people who are vaccinated. This virus is not going away, and it will continue to mutate along the way. We must learn to live with COVID, which means 1) get vaccinated 2) test if you have symptoms and 3) do your part to protect others, i.e. mask up when warranted. 

Vaccines Available in Downers Grove

If you have not yet been vaccinated, know that it offers your best protection against COVID. Schedule a vaccine appointment online at our Downers Grove clinic. This clinic also offers COVID testing.