Columbus County has its first confirmed case of monkeypox, according to the health department.
“It was just a matter of time,” Director Kim Smith said.
Bladen County has had two confirmed cases, and New Hanover one so far. More than 220 cases have been confirmed statewide, according to the state Division of Health and Human Services.
The virus is spread through close contact and can be spread through respiratory secretions, Smith said. It can survive on surfaces for 15-20 hours as well. All the cases in North Carolina so far have been among men, state officials said. The virus is commonly spread through sexual contact.
Although sexual activity is the most common way monkeypox is spread, Smith said it is “not a sexually transmitted disease.
“It transmits like chickenpox,” she said.
Monkeypox can spread from animals to people, who then share the virus, Smith said. The illness is rarely critical, but features flu-like symptoms and weeping blisters days after infection.
“This is a virus,” Smith said. “It spreads like any virus. Towels, surfaces, sheets – it can survive a surprisingly long time. If a person has an open sore and shakes your hand, you could catch it. The primary method of transmission is between people, often during prolonged intimate contact.”
A vaccine is available for the virus, according to DHHS, but supplies are limited.
Smith said the same tactics used to battle COVID-19 are effective against monkeypox.
“Wash your hands throughout the day,” she said. “Keep at least three feet between yourself and other people. And if you feel sick, stay home and call your medical provider.”