Saturday, October 1, 2022

First case of monkeypox confirmed in New Hanover, 250 vaccines administered so far

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Local public health officials learned Monday morning one person in the county has contracted the monkeypox virus. The patient is isolating as the county investigates the case. 

A lab report tracked the case Saturday after the patient sought a test from a private practitioner. Results were sent to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services per protocol, in turn alerting New Hanover County health.

READ MORE: New Hanover County one of seven vaccine receivers in state’s new monkeypox response plan

According to county health director David Howard, staff has been contact tracing to assess where the person has been and all activities participated in during the incubation period. The department is notifying everyone who made close contact while the patient was infectious.

“This is not a respiratory transmission virus,” Howard told the media during a conference call Monday. “There’s a small chance through respiratory secretions, saliva, that it may transmit.”

Primarily, monkeypox is spread through skin-to-skin contact or prolonged face-to-face exchanges, as well as through items exposed and shared — bath or dish towels, eating utensils, drinking glasses. Though not a sexually transmitted infection, it can also disseminate through intimacy.

It’s notably slower moving as compared to Covid-19, Howard confirmed. A person’s likelihood of exposure to monkeypox is dependent upon how much physical contact he or she engages with another who may also be exposed.

The New Hanover patient is isolating at home and has not needed hospital treatment, Howard confirmed. The health director explained severe symptoms from the virus “are few and far between.”

Early symptoms may include that of a cold — fever, exhaustion and headache, sometimes a sore throat and cough. Howard said the virus may present itself as a rash as well; thereafter, the nodules, or “pox,” could appear within two or three weeks. 

“We typically refer to them as ‘pustules lesions,'” he said. “And that liquid in those lesions is packed with virus.”

The pox appear in the last stages of the illness and eventually scab over.

Once someone is diagnosed with monkeypox, it is recommended she or he receive a JYNNEOS vaccine within 14 days of exposure to prevent and reduce symptom severity. Two shots are required for patients 18 and older, with the second dose administered a month after the first.

Individuals can receive vaccines if they meet certain criteria, including:

  • 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)

NCDHHS secretary Kody Kinsley Tweeted last month the virus was showing in high numbers in populations “among social networks of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.”

As of Aug. 10 NCDHHS data had 70% of cases in Black men and 19% in white men. It also indicated 24% of vaccines went to Black recipients, while 67% have been administered to white recipients.

The vaccine was distributed at a Charlotte Pride event over the weekend; Mecklenburg has 25 cases reported.

The first monkeypox case was reported in North Carolina on June 23. Since, NCDHHS has gauged 250 cases statewide.

“There may be some cases out there we don’t know about,” Howard added. “We assume that with any kind of a communicable disease. But we are very aggressively leaning in, reaching into communities, letting them know that if they are in a population that happens to have some trends in transmission right now, we want them to come and get vaccinated.”

New Hanover was among the first counties to receive a JYNNEOS vaccine shipment in July. Around 250 of the series have been administered so far, Howard noted.

“That doesn’t sound like a huge number, but we’re responding to the community who identifies themselves as qualifying — to play it safe for their health and well-being,” he said.

Vaccines are offered at the Pandemic Operations center at 1507 Greenfield St., Monday through Friday; appointments are recommended by calling 910-798-6800.

Tips the county recommend the public consider to prevent the spread of the monkeypox virus include:

  1. Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have any new or unexplained rashes or lesions.
    • Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
    • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
  2. 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.
  3.  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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also encourages safer sex practices, among other tips here.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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