NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – New Hanover County’s Health and Human Services’ Public Health and Pandemic Operations teams have been monitoring the current global outbreak of monkeypox, what it means for the community and are focused on being proactive – working with the state and CDC, providing vaccinations and testing, and educating the community to minimize the virus’s spread.
Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that is transmitted through close physical contact, which includes, but is not limited to, skin-to-skin contact, prolonged face-to-face contact, or prolonged contact with an item that has come in contact with the virus. Anyone can contract and spread monkeypox. Identified cases in North Carolina and across the United States so far are primarily spreading among men that have sex with other men or transgender individuals. Though it is believed that most individuals so far have been exposed to the virus through close contact during sex, sexual intimacy is not the only way to contract monkeypox, and it is not exclusive to same sex or transgender individuals.
“While we are seeing high case numbers in the LGBTQIA population so far, this is likely by chance, as monkeypox is also infecting people outside these groups,” said New Hanover County Health Director David Howard. “Currently we have no confirmed cases among New Hanover County residents, but we expect to have cases. So we are vaccinating individuals with greater risk of exposure and who meet specific criteria, and we will continue to assess the needs in our community, be prepared to expand our response, and work to get in front of impacts in our county as much as possible.”
The Jynneos vaccine can prevent a high-risk individual from contracting Monkeypox or reduce severity of illness if given within two weeks of an exposure. The county’s Pandemic Operations Center is offering Jynneos for free to individuals who self-identify as meeting one of the following criteria:
- People who have been in close physical contact with someone diagnosed with Monkeypox in the last 14 days
- Certain healthcare workers and public health response team members designated by public health authorities
- Men who have sex with other men or transgender individuals, who report any of the following in the last 90 days:
- Having multiple or anonymous sex partners
- Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease
- Receiving HIV PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)
Jynneos vaccines are available at the Pandemic Operations Center (1507 Greenfield Street, Wilmington), Monday through Friday and appointments are recommended. To make an appointment, call 910-798-6800.
In addition to receiving the vaccine if you are eligible, health officials encourage the community to practice the following three steps to prevent getting monkeypox:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have any new or unexplained rash or lesion.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
- Wash your hands often.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.
The CDC also encourages individuals to temporarily change some behaviors that may increase risk of being exposed, including safer sex practices. More information is available on the CDC’s website here.
Monkeypox is very rare and caused by an orthopox virus. While discovered in monkeys in 1958, the virus is more commonly transmitted by rodents and the first case in humans was not seen until 1970. Since then, Monkeypox cases have been reported in many western and central African countries. The current global outbreak of monkeypox began in May and Monkeypox cases have been reported in over 80 countries since that time. North Carolina saw its first confirmed case on June 23 and there are currently more than 120 cases throughout the state. Last week, Monkeypox was declared a Public Health Emergency in the United States and while the virus is rarely fatal it can lead to extremely painful symptoms.
More information can be found at Health.NHCgov.com.