CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – As North Carolina sees more Monkeypox cases, health systems are making sure doctors know what to look for. But many people still aren’t sure what to expect from the virus that’s now infected at least 11 people in the state.
So far, Wake and Durham counties have each reported a case of Monkeypox.
Doctors said they expect to see more cases but note that this is a very different situation than they’ve seen with COVID-19.
Dr. David Weber is leading the Monkeypox response for UNC Health.
“We pushed out information to our primary care providers,” he explained. “We have patient information sheets available to give to patients who are exposed or have disease.”
He said UNC is also working to develop its own Monkeypox testing.
“Hopefully, in the next two to four weeks we’ll have our own test available,” he said.
Currently, tests are available through the state and Labcorp.
Hospital systems across North Carolina are making doctors aware of what to look for.
Dr. Paul Cook heads the Division of Infectious diseases at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine.
“It’s important that doctors have an understanding of what the rash is and to keep it on their radar,” he said. “If you see a rash that you think may be consistent with Monkeypox, you probably need to get some more history from the patient to find out what kind of exposures that person may have had.”
Cook said COVID-19 poses a bigger risk to most people than Monkeypox.
“COVID is still with us, and I’m much more concerned with people’s lackadaisical attitude about COVID than I am about monkeypox.”
One reason for that is because COVID-19 spreads much more easily than Monkeypox. Monkeypox does not spread through the air, it requires more intimate, generally skin-to-skin contact.
“If somebody has COVID in the same household, it’s a pretty safe bet everybody in the same household’s going to get it,” Cook said. “For Monkeypox, not so much.”
“You need prolonged close contact,” added Weber.
Weber said Monkeypox can be contagious for longer than illnesses like COVID-19 or Chickenpox.
“You actually stay contagious until those lesions, those skin lesions, actually crust and fall off leaving healthy skin underneath,” he said. “It usually takes two to four weeks.”
If someone is exposed to Monkeypox, vaccines can help prevent infection. Vaccines are available at both the Wake and Durham County health departments.
“If you get a vaccine within the first two to three days after exposure, you have an 85 percent reduced risk of infection, and after that, it helps mitigate, gets you a more mild case of disease,” Weber said.
Doctors said most people with Monkeypox recover at home.
“No one to my knowledge has been hospitalized across the state,” Weber said.