Rowan County has first case of monkeypox, health department says

Published 10:24 am Friday, July 15, 2022

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Health Department has confirmed that Rowan has its first case of monkeypox, according to Health Department Director Alyssa Harris.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) reported the first case of monkeypox in North Carolina on June 23. As of July 14, there have been 1,470 confirmed monkeypox cases in the United States, with 11 confirmed cases in North Carolina. 

Harris said the diagnosed individual is currently isolating, and close contacts have been notified. To protect patient privacy, no additional information about this individual will be shared. Rowan County Public Health, along with federal, state, and local partners are working closely together to investigate and monitor the current national outbreak.

Monkeypox is a communicable disease that may affect any person. Since May, the monkeypox virus infection has been identified in individuals with no travel history to other regions where the virus is more prevalent. the CDEC recommends anyone diagnosed, or who believes they may have monkeypox, should isolate at home and if you have a rash or other symptoms, you should stay in a separate room away from both people and pets in the home if at all possible.

“We want to be very clear that this disease can affect anyone, despite the fact that it is currently more prevalent among men who have sex with other men,” said Harris. “There may be some stigma attached, but we are here to help, with information, with testing, with treatment. It does spread through close contact, and it is infectious from the start of symptoms, though it may not be clear that the symptoms are specifically monkeypox since they can be indicative of other illnesses as well.”

Harris pointed out that monkeypox transmission “typically requires prolonged skin-to-skin contact, direct contact with body fluids, or prolonged, close face-to-face contact.”

Although monkeypox is a rare, it can be a potentially serious, viral illness that typically involves flu-like symptoms, though Harris was quick to say there have been no deaths associated with the disease. She also pointed out that “monkeypox, unlike COVID, has been around awhile and we are familiar with it, so people should not be concerned that we are looking at a COVID-like spread. We are not in that kind of situation. The disease can be very painful, and precautions need to be taken, but this is not another pandemic.”

According to the CDC, symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus. The rash goes through various stages before healing completely. 

The incubation period for monkeypox is usually 7-14 days, but it can range from 5-21 days. Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash. People with monkeypox are infectious from the start of their symptoms until the lesions heal and new skin forms underneath scabs. For more detailed information, go to the CDC’s website

As far as protecting yourself, the CDC suggests the following:

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
    • Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
    • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
    • Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
  • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • In Central and West Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread monkeypox virus, usually rodents and primates. Also, avoid sick or dead animals, as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.

Currently, there is one vaccine licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration available for preventing monkeypox infection. According to the CDC, when properly administered before or after a recent exposure, the vaccine is an effective tool to protect people from this illness.

There are also two post-exposure vaccines, said Harris, that can lessen the severity of symptoms as well as prevent them from progressing.

If you feel that you have been exposed to someone who has had monkeypox or feel that you are eligible to receive the vaccine, please call Rowan County Public Health at 704-216-8784 for more information.

“That line is staffed by our well-trained nurses who are ready to help, whatever the need, including reassurance,” Harris said.