NCDHHS encourages mpox vaccination for those at higher risk

Published 11:50 am Saturday, October 28, 2023

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Two cases of mpox were reported to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services over the past six weeks, the first cases in North Carolina residents since April 2023. In addition to the two cases, mpox virus was recently detected in one out of 12 wastewater sites where monitoring is being conducted. These cases and wastewater detections were all in different counties, suggesting increased spread of mpox in North Carolina.

“If you are at higher risk for mpox and haven’t yet gotten the vaccine, now is a good time to do so,” said Dr. Zack Moore, state epidemiologist. “Numbers of cases have been low recently thanks to vaccinations and engagement of partners in the LGBTQ+ community, but this is a reminder that mpox is still with us.”

Mpox typically begins with flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and exhaustion followed a few days later by a rash that may be located on hands, feet, chest, face or mouth or near the genitals or perianal area. In some recent cases, the rash has appeared before or at the same time as the flu-like symptoms. Mpox can be spread from the time symptoms start until all sores have healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed, which can take several weeks. Symptoms can be more severe for people who are immunocompromised, such as in individuals living with HIV.

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The disease is spread person to person through direct skin-to-skin contact, having contact with an infectious rash, through body fluids or through respiratory secretions. Such contact often occurs during prolonged face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex. While anyone can get mpox, in the current outbreak, most cases have been in men who have sex with men and more than half of the cases in North Carolina have been in people living with HIV.

Those who think they have mpox or have had close personal contact with someone who has mpox should visit a health care provider or contact the local health department to help decide if they need to be tested for mpox. It is also advised to talk with a doctor about getting tested for other sexually transmitted infections including HIV and syphilis, both of which are on the rise in North Carolina.