North Carolina has eclipsed more than 200 cases of the monkeypox virus, with 34 counties having at least one case according to Aug. 18 data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
That includes Orange County, which had its own first confirmed case of monkeypox on August 17. North Carolina’s first confirmed case was identified on June 23.
Nationally, over 14,000 cases of monkeypox have been identified in the United States. Compared to other states, North Carolina ranks 15th in monkeypox infections, according to Aug. 18 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
North Carolina’s answer
NCDHHS is working with local health departments and community partners to identify, track and respond to cases in the state, according to their website.
It began its planned response when the first cases appeared in the UK and has been working to distribute guidance to medical providers as well as information to the public.
“If there is a case that comes through our local health departments, they are asked to then report it to us so that we can work with them to do the follow-up: provide treatment and supplies and also do the tracing of contact,” said Dr. Susan Kansagra, NCDHHS assistant secretary for public health.
The health department also offers JYNNEOS vaccines for those exposed to monkeypox and offers a list of vaccine locations on its website.
JYNNEOS is a monkeypox vaccine and is the CDC’s preferred defense against the rare disease. The vaccine requires two doses and it takes 14 days after receiving the second dose of JYNNEOS to achieve maximum immune protection.
According to NCDHHS, the vaccine supply is limited. Therefore, the department prioritizes people with exposure to monkeypox or who have a higher risk of exposure. Kansagra said they have over 10,000 doses of the vaccine in North Carolina for those who may be most affected.
Vaccine eligibility criteria include the following in North Carolina: anyone who had close contact in the past two weeks with someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox — and gay or bisexual men, or transgender individuals who had multiple sexual or sex partners anonymous, were diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection or taken medication to prevent HIV infection.
Orange County’s answer
The Orange County Health Department has been in direct communication with the county’s first infected individual, according to an Aug. 17 news release.
“We’ve been preparing for a case of monkeypox and now that it’s here, we want our community to be aware of this disease so that those at risk can seek medical attention and get tested right away.” if they have symptoms,” Orange County Health Director. Quintana Stewart said in the release.
While the vaccine location at 414 E. Main St. in Durham serves as the monkeypox vaccine center for Orange County, there have been several pop-up clinics in the county, Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils said.
“We’re working with our community health colleagues at the health department to hopefully host some community events in the not-too-distant future,” said Margaret Campbell, a family nurse practitioner at the Orange County Health Department. .
Seils, who received his vaccine at the Durham County Public Health Department, said he encourages those in high-risk populations to get the monkeypox vaccine.
Although anyone can get monkeypox, nearly all cases of monkeypox in North Carolina are currently in men who have sex with men, according to the NCDHHS.
Black men account for the majority of monkeypox cases in the state.
“While 70 percent of cases are in black men, black North Carolinians are getting less than a quarter of the vaccinations,” August 10 NCDHHS report said.
In contrast, white men account for only 19 percent of cases, yet white North Carolinians received 67 percent of vaccine doses.
“What we really want to do is make sure we’re providing clear and destigmatizing information,” Kansagra said. “We know there’s already a lot of stigma out there with the community, and we really want to make sure that what we’re doing isn’t creating more stigma.”
As a gay man, Seils is concerned about the potential increased stigma and misinformation that could come with an increase in monkeypox cases. He said people should be aware that anyone can get monkeypox – and it is not a sexually transmitted disease.
Seils added that he is also concerned about vaccine disparities affecting black men. People who are most at risk often have less access to the resources they need, he said.
“Different populations of people, especially when it comes to race and ethnicity, have different approaches when it comes to health care,” Seils said.
According to the NCDHHS and CDC, early symptoms of monkeypox can include fever, fatigue, headache, and, rarely, sore throat and cough. A rash that may look like a pimple or blister appears soon after.
Symptoms usually begin within three weeks of exposure to the virus and usually last two to four weeks. Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms begin until the rash heals.
The CDC said monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, skin-to-skin contact.
This can include direct contact with an infected person’s rash, scabs or body fluids, touching objects, fabrics and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox, or contact with respiratory secretions from an infected individual.
Direct contact can occur during intimacy, including the following: oral, anal, or vaginal sex, touching the genital area of a person with monkeypox, hugging, massaging, or kissing, and prolonged face-to-face contact.
Kansagra said if North Carolinians are concerned they may be infected, they should contact their primary care provider.
“Any provider can do that: They can swab and check and send it to a lab,” she said. “We really encourage people to be aware and get tested if they have concerns.”
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