Special to Iredell Free News
Summarizing months of preparation and response efforts, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is releasing a 2022 Monkeypox Outbreak Response Plan (Spanish edition) to provide a quick and easily accessible summary of the information and tools North Carolinians need.
The document provides an overview of the monkeypox virus and symptoms, and it outlines NCDHHS’ operational response. Details on testing, vaccines, community partner interaction and communications are included, as well as links to additional information. The plan will be updated as the situation changes.
“We have been monitoring the monkeypox outbreak and planning our response even before the first cases were reported in North Carolina,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “Releasing this plan helps all North Carolinians, including caregivers across our health system and individuals, to be on the same page about what they can do to control the spread of monkeypox.”
With the release of the plan, NCDHHS is repeating the key points people need to know during this outbreak.
♦ First, get checked. If you’ve had close contact — including sex — with someone with monkeypox, see a health care provider. If you have bumps, sores or a rash that looks like blisters or pimples, see a health care provider. Call your local health department if you don’t have a provider.
♦ Second, get tested. Testing is widely available and encouraged if you have symptoms of monkeypox. Samples must be collected by a health care professional, and they must follow a specific procedure to collect a good sample for testing. NCDHHS recommends providers test any patient with a suspicious lesion or sore.
♦ Third, get protected. Most people with monkey pox infection get better on their own. Treatment is available and may be recommended for people with a high risk of severe illness. Vaccines are available for those exposed to monkeypox. Gay or bisexual men or transgender individuals who had multiple sex partners or anonymous sex in the last 14 days are also eligible for a vaccine. Supplies are limited, but more are coming. Contact your local health department for more information. Vaccine must be given within 14 days of exposure.
“Health care providers are the key link in getting checked, getting tested and getting protected,” said Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, M.D., MPH, State Health Director and NCDHHS Chief Medical Officer. “We want to emphasize that testing is widely available, and anyone with symptoms should be tested.”
The plan outlines key operational responses to the outbreak:
There is plenty of testing capacity. The NC State Laboratory of Public Health, multiple commercial labs and some health systems have testing capability, and more labs will have testing capability soon. Health care providers can send tests to the State Laboratory of Public Health or a commercial lab.
Vaccine allocated by the federal government has been distributed to seven local health departments. These seven locations are sharing vaccine with other health departments and some clinics to ensure availability of vaccine throughout the state. People can call their local health department or the seven health departments with the initial supply. Contact information for the seven health departments is below. North Carolina has received a total of 2,809 doses of vaccine. This is enough to treat 1,404 individuals with the recommended two-dose vaccination series.
Monkeypox is a viral illness that typically begins with flu-like symptoms and swelling of the lymph nodes and progresses to a rash, like blisters or pimples, on the face and body. Most infections last two to four weeks, and most people with monkeypox get better on their own without treatment. Antiviral drugs may be recommended for those who are more likely to get severely ill, like patients with weakened immune systems. And vaccination can prevent illness or lead to less severe symptoms if given within two weeks after someone is exposed to monkeypox. Monkeypox is rarely fatal, and no deaths have been reported related to this outbreak worldwide.
The virus does not spread easily between people, but 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.
NCDHHS is maintaining additional resources on its monkeypox web page. A count of North Carolina cases is now displayed at the top of the page. A communications toolkit is available, as well as guidance for providers and local health departments.