Wake, Durham counties ramp up monkeypox vaccination efforts as cases increase in North Carolina

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Friday, August 5, 2022
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Monkeypox vaccines will soon be easier to get in Wake County and Durham County as cases increase across North Carolina.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Monkeypox cases are on the rise in North Carolina and across the country.

More than 80 people have tested positive in North Carolina with close to a third of those cases reported since Monday.

"There is no reason here that we won't see an increase in cases," warned Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a Duke Health infectious disease specialist.

Nationwide, more than 7,100 Americans have tested positive with almost every state reporting a case.

The outbreak led President Joe Biden to declare the disease a public health emergency on Thursday, a move that will increase the money and funding available to combat it.

The health departments in Wake and Durham counties announced plans to expand vaccination efforts following Biden's decision.

Wake County will hold its first walk-in monkeypox vaccination clinic Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Wake County Public Health Center at 10 Sunnybrook Road. The county has access to around 550 vaccines that are open to only eligible individuals.

The county also added more nurses to vaccinate patients, moved staff to the call center to handle inquiries about monkeypox and developed plans to launch an online scheduling portal.

Durham County plans to open up more vaccination appointments starting Monday.

The latest state data shows both counties reported fewer than 10 positive cases.

North Carolina health officials said a majority of the state's cases are tied with men who have sex with other men. So far, no women or children have tested positive in the state, but they aren't immune to the disease.

"It is possible and it's expected and we've started to see infections in children (in other states) -- most often there is, at least in some way, shape, or form this household contact," explained Dr. Ibukun Kalu, a Duke University director of pediatric infection prevention.

Monkeypox is spread mainly through close skin-to-skin contact but can also spread by touching an item an infected individual has touched like fabric or surfaces. Experts say the rash turns into blisters and becomes painful.

Because of the way the virus spreads, Kalu said it is unlikely there will be massive outbreaks at schools or daycares. Instead, she did point to resources needed at places with congregate living like prisons or colleges.

"Where people stay overnight, may have shared equipment or shared household centers can be a setting where monkeypox spreads," she said.

Dr. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, the dean of the Duke University School of Nursing, said going forward public health officials need to be doing more to eliminate the stigma around this disease and to work with at-risk populations.

"Realize that stigma plays an important role in how we message. We need to make sure that we're not blaming, and we're actually reaching out to communities to try to seek partnerships," Guilamo-Ramos said.

He also stressed that officials need to be thinking of mitigation efforts through a health equity lens to help reduce barriers to testing, treatment and vaccines.

The good news is Duke's experts said cases rarely require hospitalization and many often don't need treatment.

Health officials continue to urge anyone displaying symptoms including swollen lymph nodes, rashes, and fever to seek testing.

Following testing, individuals need to isolate.

For full information about the status of the outbreak, visit the CDC.