GREENSBORO — Guilford County health officials have reported three cases of monkeypox among residents as of Tuesday while the statewide count continues to rise.
“All cases have been advised of proper isolation and quarantine guidelines and have been placed under mandatory isolation orders by the Health Department,” Kenya Smith Godette, a spokeswoman for Guilford’s health department, said in an email to the News & Record.
The first case of monkeypox in North Carolina was identified on June 23. Since then, a total of 114 monkeypox cases have been reported statewide as of about noon Tuesday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. For comparison, the state’s total was 20 on July 19.
“It is important that everyone stay informed on what monkeypox is and how it spreads so they can take steps to protect themselves and others,” Godette said Tuesday, noting the health department’s ongoing efforts to provide education about the disease to providers and residents.
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Monkeypox symptoms are similar to that of smallpox but milder, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a rash that can look like pimples or blisters.
“Monkeypox is not a virus that stigmatizes or discriminates,” Godette said. “Anyone who comes into contact with an infected person or materials that have been used by an infected person are at risk for contracting monkeypox.”
Dr. David Priest, chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer with Novant Health, emphasized that the primary ways monkeypox is spread are through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, or prolonged face-to-face contact during which it can be spread through respiratory droplets.
Nearly all monkeypox cases in North Carolina have been in men who had sex with men, DHHS reported on its website. However, local health officials cautioned residents not to think of monkeypox as an issue that only affects a specific group of people in the community.
“This is a community problem for all of us,” Priest said Tuesday during a call with local media.
For those who are most at-risk, health departments in Guilford and Forsyth now have supplies of vaccines to help protect against the virus. Initially, Forsyth was the closest county that received a vaccine supply and served as a vaccine hub for surrounding counties.
“It is because of the high demand, and very specific criteria required for a monkeypox vaccine that we are not reporting our exact dose counts” in Guilford County, Godette said. “The community, however, should be confident that if they qualify and are in need of a vaccine that we will be able to assist them at the Health Department.”
The Biden administration declared monkeypox a public health emergency last week in an effort to slow the outbreak that has infected more than 8,900 Americans, according to the Associated Press.
If someone suspects they have monkeypox or have been exposed, they should call their doctor immediately, describe their symptoms and request to be tested, according to local health department officials.