Beaufort County health officials prepare for possibility of monkeypox

Level of concern for Eastern Carolina still ‘low’
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 7:00 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The World Health Organization is warning people to be aware of a rare disease called monkeypox. There are cases reported in 12 countries right now, including the U.S.

WITN talked to health officials in Eastern North Carolina to learn how they’re preparing.

“I would say my level of concern is fairly low for the monkeypox,” said Beaufort County Health Director James Madson. However, he said they are preparing for the possibility that it spreads to Eastern North Carolina.

“We’re in contact, constant contact with all the doctor’s offices and any place that tests for blood or body fluids and stuff like that and when they find a case, then they will let us know, and typically the state will find out at the same time we do,” he explained.

Right now, there aren’t any cases in the state. If reported, local health officials would contact those who tested positive and track down who else may have been exposed as well as where the case originated from.

“What we have is a relationship with providers and doctors in labs looking for any cases and then they would report that to us and then we’d initiate an investigation,” Madson said.

Brody School of Medicine Professor Keith M. Ramsey said many symptoms are similar to the flu, but some aspects are distinct to the virus.

“Looks pretty much like chickenpox except that the legions are larger; they’re pustular. One difference between chickenpox and this one is that monkeypox, you actually have lymph nodes swelling, so you’ll have lymph nodes swelling in the area that you have a rash. We don’t see that with chickenpox,” he said.

While the possibility of spreading here can’t be ruled out, your likelihood of getting seriously sick from it is low.

“Not unless you’ve got a decreased immune system, if you’ve had cancer or chemotherapy or a transplant or HIV infection it would be a more severe case, but otherwise, no,” Ramsey explained.

“Most infections last 2-4 weeks. The virus does not spread easily between people; transmission can occur through contact with body fluids, monkeypox sores, items that have been contaminated with fluids or sores (clothing, bedding, etc.), or through respiratory droplets following prolonged face-to-face contact,” said NCDHHS Press Assistant Summer Tonizzo.

The smallpox vaccine does offer protection against monkeypox, but most people born after the 1970′s were not required to get that vaccine as babies.

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