Raleigh, NC — North Carolina added nine new cases of monkeypox on Friday, bringing the state close to 100 cases since the outbreak began.
Duke Health experts say they expect that number to keep rising.
Almost all of the cases are among men who have sex with other men – but doctors believe it’s only a matter of time before more women and children are infected, too. Monkeypox is spreading by close, often intimate, skin-to-skin contact.
“If we compare this to COVID, which was overwhelmingly a respiratory infection, this is orders of magnitude less infectious,” said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, Infectious Disease Specialist at Duke Health.
Even though it’s spreading mostly among gay and bisexual men, Wolfe says monkeypox should be on everyone’s radar.
“There is nothing about the way the virus moves that cares about your gender, who you love, or who you hang out with,” he said. “There’s no reason that this needs to stay in those populations.”
Monkeypox transmission in households and schools
Pediatrician Dr. Ibukun Kalu expects household transmission, but not transmission in daycares and schools.
“Children with a history of inflammation of the skin, specifically dermatitis or eczema may be more likely to have moderate or severe presentation,” he said.
Vaccinations available in North Carolina
The virus starts with a fever, followed by rashes and painful blisters that take 2 to 3 weeks to heal.
To help combat the outbreak, the state is getting thousands more doses of the monkeypox vaccine. However, metrics show less than a quarter of the shots have gone into arms.
Doctors say the vaccines can prevent infection. Right now, North Carolina has gotten more than 10,000 doses. However, only around 2,200, or 22%, have been administered.
Wake County has 550 doses available, and right now those are only for those deemed high-risk – a group which includes gay and bisexual men who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 3 months.
“I think we need to think about things from a health equity lens and ensure we are reaching the right people, that we are moving at the pace we need to move,” said Dr. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, Dean of the Duke University School of Nursing.
Doctors say those already vaccinated against smallpox likely have some protection against monkeypox – but it’s unclear how much and those people at-risk are encouraged to get the newer vaccine.
On Saturday, Wake County is holding a free, walk-in vaccine clinic from 10 to 3 at the Health Center on Sunnybrook Road.