NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – New Hanover County Public Health has confirmed the first case of monkeypox in the county. The patient is currently isolating and individuals who may have been in close contact with the patient while they were infectious are being notified. No further information will be shared about this case to protect the patient’s privacy.
“New Hanover County Public Health and our Pandemic Operations team have been working with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control over the past several months to track the spread of monkeypox, provide vaccines to anyone who is eligible, and be prepared to respond when our first case was confirmed,” said Health Director David Howard. “Our team is working with local healthcare providers to ensure we identify any case quickly, work on contact tracing, offer the vaccine to any close contact, and ensure that any impacted individuals isolate.”
Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that typically involves flu-like symptoms initially, swelling of the lymph nodes and a rash that typically appears later and includes bumps that are initially filled with fluid before scabbing over. It typically lasts two to four weeks and is spread through close physical contact, such as skin-to-skin contact or prolonged face-to-face contact with someone that has monkeypox. It is not a sexually transmitted infection but can be spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact. It can also be spread through contact with items that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
“Monkeypox infections continue to be rare, but they are rising across the country, and anyone can get monkeypox so it’s important to be vigilant and aware of symptoms,” said Howard. “If you have unexplained or concerning symptoms including a rash, lesions, or sores, please contact your healthcare provider or call the New Hanover County Communicable Disease team at 910-367-2484 for testing. Rashes should be covered and you should avoid being intimate with anyone until you have been checked out. An additional recommended precaution is to avoid intimate contact with anyone you don’t know.”
New Hanover County’s Pandemic Operations and Communicable Disease teams have been working hand-in-hand to prioritize monkeypox plans and preparedness, and that work will continue. Vaccinations have been provided locally to eligible individuals since early July, testing has been coordinated when needed, and control measures have been outlined and planned to help ensure any potential spread is limited.
More information about monkeypox can be found at Health.NHCgov.com.
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 Pandemic Operations Center is offering the vaccine 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.