“If you have skin--if you have lungs, you can get monkeypox”: Medical experts dispel myths, provide facts on the virus

WECT hosted a Facebook live discussion Thursday evening on monkeypox
There are currently four cases of monkeypox reported in Southeastern North Carolina.
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 12:37 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Since the monkeypox outbreak began in May, the majority of confirmed cases outside of the endemic regions in Africa have been in gay and bisexual men. But anyone can get the virus that’s transmitted through close intimate contact.

“If you have skin--if you have lungs, you can get monkeypox,” says Dr. Jonathan Pan, an internal medicine physician at Novant/New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Pan was part of a Facebook live discussion on monkeypox hosted by WECT Thursday evening. He was part of a panel of health experts who addressed the facts and fiction surrounding the virus.

Pan says while the highest risk population is men who have sex with men, anyone can get it.

“It might not affect your community at this time, but there’s always a chance it can spread,” he said.

Ed Adams and Jeff Mills, a gay couple who advocate for the LGBTQ community said the stigma attached to this virus is very similar to one from decades ago.

“I think its really important that the message is out that this virus--monkeypox--is not going to discriminate,” said Ed Adams. “We have 40 years of shared experience with HIV. We are long term survivors of HIV and we were there for really what was some of the unbelievable stigmatizing of our community.”

There are currently four cases of monkeypox reported in Southeastern North Carolina. There are two cases in Bladen County, one in New Hanover County and one in Columbus County. All are reportedly isolating which can take several weeks.

“As long as you have a rash, whether or not that’s the actual--initial we say puss pocket or it turns into the scab itself, you are likely shedding viruses,” said Dr. Pan. “That can take upwards of two to three weeks. And so ideally you want to isolate until all your rash--scabs are healed over.”

Jon Campbell manages the New Hanover County Pandemic Operations Center. He says more people are starting to come in for the monkeypox vaccine.

“We’ve given around 300 of the Jynneos vaccine at pandemic operations since we were first fielded the supply,” Campbell said. “There’s been a big interest. Sometimes folks are coming from out of state or from other areas of North Carolina that are hit harder with monkeypox but there was less vaccine available.”

Another myth about the virus is that children can’t get it. They can. It’s rare, but there have been cases reported around the globe.

With school starting in less than a week, Dr. Khadijia Tribie, a pediatrician at Med North says parents are concerned. She said she’s telling the parents of her patients that since its mainly spread through close intimate contact, they should not worry.

“So I’m reassuring families a lot that they are going to use some of those same precautions that we used for covid,” Dr. Tribie said. “Lots of handwashing. We’re going to continue to that. Lots of use of alcohol-based hand wipes or hand sanitizer and not too much close intimate contact. Am I concerned? No. I’m actually reassuring most of my families.”

To listen to the entire panel discussion on monkey pox, click here.