New Hanover County announces first case of monkeypox

New Hanover County announces first case of monkeypox
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 1:13 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 22, 2022 at 5:18 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County Public Health has identified the first case of monkeypox in the county.

The health department said the patient is isolated. Anyone who may have been in close contact with the patient while they were infectious are being notified.

“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.

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.

“This is not a respiratory transmission virus,” said Howard. “It’s not as if in any group of 100 people in a grocery store, 20 or 30 have it. If you’re a person who engages in very few persons in that close proximity -- family members and that’s it -- then your risk is likely pretty low.”

Monkeypox 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.

More than 200 people have gotten vaccinated against monkeypox in New Hanover County. Right now, not everyone can get a vaccine. Leaders are focusing on communities that are seeing more cases of monkeypox than others.

“It’s like a forest fire when you drop a match on one end of the forest,” said Howard. “That doesn’t mean the rest of the forest is not at risk eventually but that’s where it is right now. That’s what we’re working on. We’re the firefighters working where the fire is.”

The Pandemic Operations Center is offering the vaccine for free.