Durham County Public Health confirms first case of monkeypox

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Wednesday, July 13, 2022
First case of monkeypox confirmed in Durham County
Public health officials say the person is currently isolating, and close contacts have been notified.

DURHAM COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Durham County Department of Public Health has confirmed the first case of monkeypox in the county.

Public health officials say the person is currently isolating, and close contacts have been notified.

Those close contacts are now eligible to get the monkeypox vaccine. Health officials said the vaccine is effective and safe; anyone exposed to monkeypox should get vaccinated within 14 days after being exposed.

Health experts are quick to point out that an exposure for monkeypox requires close contact. The virus is not nearly as contagious as some viruses, like COVID-19.

"I think it's really important to know that it comes from close contact, prolonged, close contact. hugging, a person that has a confirmed case, kissing, sharing utensils--really that very close contact of a person that's been confirmed to have that," Dr. Nicole Mushonga said.

Some health providers are also singling out some LGBTQ individuals as possibly being at higher risk, but without context that worries some LGBTQ advocates.

"Saying that one population is at a higher risk is just really, really dangerous for us to go into," Candis Cox said.

Cox is the vice chair for the LGBTQ Center of Durham. She is working to prevent the community from being stigmatized by monkeypox infections.

"We have to educate the providers, we have to educate the population. It is not something that is translated simply because of sexual contact. That would make it an STI. It is not that," she said. "It is a virus that is contracted through bodily fluid."

This case in Durham comes days after Wake County Public Health confirmed its first case.

On July 6, Wake County Public Health confirmed the first case in that county.

That patient is also isolating at home and Wake County staff are working with them on contact tracing, health officials said.

Nearly 900 cases of monkeypox have been identified in the United States. DCoDPH continues to work closely with state and national partners to monitor the current national outbreak and respond within Durham County.

"We have been working with the state and the CDC to track the spread of monkeypox for several weeks now, and we have been prepared to respond upon confirming our first case here in Durham," said Durham County Health Director Rod Jenkins.

DCoDPH is currently offering appointments for individuals to receive Jynneos, a vaccine to prevent monkeypox illness or lead to less severe symptoms in individuals recently exposed to monkeypox, if they meet certain criteria.

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that typically involves flu-like symptoms, swelling of the lymph nodes and a rash that includes bumps that are initially filled with fluid before scabbing over.