RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Infectious disease experts are closely monitoring the spread of the monkeypox virus. The illness, which is usually only found in parts of Africa, is now in more than a dozen countries including the U.S.
UNC Infectious disease expert Dr. David Wohl is familiar with Monkeypox from his work in Africa.
Until recently, the virus was rarely found outside of Africa. Now, according to the World Health Organization, more than 90 cases have been confirmed on multiple continents.
Health officials have confirmed at least one case in the US with additional cases suspected.
UNC infectious disease specialist Dr. David Wohl is familiar with Monkeypox from his work in Africa. He says the state of North Carolina is preparing for likely cases of monkeypox but says people shouldn’t be alarmed by it.
“I think we’re trying to sensitize people, but not freak people out,” he said. “This is not going to be the COVID-19; this is very different.”
While doctors say the virus is usually transmitted by animals, it seems to be spreading currently through close contact with an infected person.
“It takes really very extended close intimate contact for this to be likely, or direct contact with blisters,” explained Duke infectious disease specialist, Dr. Cameron Wolfe. “Within the tight bounds of a household or within a sexual network, you can imagine that this would transmit in that situation relatively easily.”
Doctors say they expect to see the virus in North Carolina, and the state and health care systems are preparing by making health care providers aware of the virus and what to look for.
“I’d be surprised if it doesn’t come to North Carolina, to be honest,” said Wolfe.
Both doctors emphasized that this virus is not airborne and will not spread like COVID. There are also treatments and vaccines available to help treat it. Doctors say most people infected do not require hospitalization.
“We’re not expecting the same explosion of cases,” explained Wolfe. “This is not like you’re three rows back on an airplane and someone three rows ahead of you has monkeypox and you’re going to catch it; it’s not like that.”
“I think we’re sensitized due to the pandemic with COVID-19, but this is a very different type of virus, and we have the tools available to make sure things don’t get out of hand,” Wohl added.