North Carolina DHHS Hosts Town Hall to Address Monkeypox

ByJamiese Price WTVD logo
Friday, July 29, 2022
North Carolina DHHS Hosts Town Hall to Address Monkeypox
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State health leaders and Equality NC held a virtual town hall to make sure North Carolinians were informed of the quickly spreading Monkeypox disease.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Monkeypox outbreak is quickly spreading and so is the misinformation about the disease. Thursday night state health leaders and Equality NC took steps to make sure North Carolinians were informed through a virtual town hall, where people had a safe space to get their questions answered.

The meeting was a major about-face after a Durham County man struggled to find resources just a few weeks ago.

"There was a pretty quick ramp up in terms of public information, and getting the word out about Monkeypox, and it seems like access to testing, access to vaccination, all that stuff is improved," he stated.

The 29-year-old who didn't want to be identified contracted Monkeypox after a trip to Europe. His health has improved and his lesions have healed.

Now his attention is centered on reaching vulnerable communities. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services , nearly all the Monkeypox cases in the state have been in men who have sex with men. 60 percent of those are in men of color.

" I think that direct outreach to the queer community right now is crucial. I think nationally, that 90% of cases have occurred in men who have sex with men. So, getting information directly to an organization like Equality NC I think is going to make a big difference."

During the town hall, Dr. Victoria Mobley with NCDHHS explained Monkeypox can spread from person-to-person through infected body fluids and through skin-to-skin contact.

"So this can occur with everyday activities that we all engage in, like hugging and kissing and cuddling, and yes, having sex. And because this virus is a hearty one it can survive outside the body on inanimate objects," Mobley said.

She says this Monkeypox outbreak looks different than past outbreaks .

"We've seen in this outbreak a significant portion of folks are not presenting with a flu-like illness initially. No flu-like illness. No fever. Their rash can be isolated," Mobley said.

Vaccines to prevent Monkeypox are available, but limited. Kody Kinsley, NCDHHS Secretary, shared that federal logistic issues have made getting more vaccines a challenge. She said there is a waitlist for the vaccine in some parts of the state.

" I hope that we'll be increasing access soon so we can get closer to you and get folks through. And we continue to work with the health departments to try to improve and optimize their operations so that they can get folks vaccinated as quickly as possible," Kinsley said.

Due to limited availability the vaccine is only available for anyone who had close contact with someone who is diagnosed with Monkeypox. Gay, bisexual or transgender individuals who are being treated for a STI or have multiple sex partners are also eligible for the vaccine.

The federal government has allocated 4,548 doses of vaccine to North Carolina, enough to fully vaccinate approximately 2,300 people with the recommended two-dose vaccination series. So far, 533 doses have been administered across the state.