Buncombe County HHS Confirms First Case of Monkeypox

Last Updated on July 21, 2022 1:45 pm

Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has confirmed the first case of monkeypox in Buncombe County. Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious, viral illness that typically involves flu-like symptoms, swelling of the lymph nodes and a rash that includes bumps that are initially filled with fluid before scabbing over. The illness could be confused with a sexually transmitted infection like syphilis or herpes, or with varicella zoster virus (chickenpox). Most infections last two to four weeks.

BCHHS has begun contact tracing to identify and notify individuals who may have been in contact with the confirmed case. The patient is in isolation and no further information will be shared about this case to protect the patient’s privacy.

There are currently 21 monkeypox cases in counties throughout North Carolina as of July 20, 2022.

“Monkeypox cases continue to rise across the country. While this is the first case in Buncombe County, with increasing national and statewide trends, it is likely there are more exposures and potential cases yet to be identified,” states Public Health Director, Stacie Turpin Saunders. “It is very important to be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox and to seek out testing if you have any symptoms.”

The disease typically begins with fever, exhaustion, headache, and sometimes sore throat and cough. Lymph nodes may swell in the neck, armpits, or groin, on one or both sides of the body. Shortly after a rash may appear. In some of the recent cases, the first symptom was a rash. This may also look like blisters, sores, bumps, or pimples.

Monkeypox is transmitted 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 monkeypox, in the current outbreak, many of the cases are in individuals who have multiple or anonymous sex partners.

People can take basic steps to prevent the spread of monkeypox. If you have an unexplained rash, sores or other symptoms, see your health care provider — if you don’t have a provider or health insurance, visit a local health department near you. Keep the rash covered and avoid sex or being intimate with anyone until you have been checked out. Standard household cleaners and detergents are effective at cleaning environmental surfaces and linens.

BCHHS encourages individuals to get checked, get tested and get protected.

  • Get checked. If you’ve had close contact — including sex — with someone with monkeypox, see a health care provider. If you have bumps, sores or a rash that looks like blisters or pimples, see a health care provider. Call your local health department or BCHHS if you don’t have a provider.
  • Get tested. Testing is widely available and encouraged if you have symptoms of monkeypox. Samples must be collected by a health care professional, and they must follow a specific procedure to collect a good sample for testing. BCHHS recommends providers test any patient with a suspicious lesion or sore.
  • Get protected. Most people with monkeypox infection get better on their own. Treatment is available and may be recommended for people with a high risk of severe illness. Vaccines are available for those exposed to monkeypox. Gay or bisexual men or transgender individuals who had multiple sex partners or anonymous sex in the last 14 days are also eligible for a vaccine. Supplies are limited, but more are coming.  If you are someone who needs vaccine, you can contact your local health department, visit BCHHS or call WNC Community Health Services (WNCCHS) to learn more and get an appointment for vaccine. Vaccine must be given within 14 days of exposure.

BCHHS received monkeypox vaccine and continues to act as a vaccine hub for the region. BCHHS can transfer the vaccine to other local health departments in WNC or individuals can receive vaccine at BCHHS or WNC Community Health Services (WNCCHS). BCHHS Public Health Staff can be reached at (828) 250-5300 with questions about possible exposure or need to be vaccinated for monkeypox. WNCCHS can be reached at (828) 285-0622.

More information can be found on the CDC website:
      Signs and Symptoms
      How it Spreads
      Monkeypox Facts for People Who are Sexually Active

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