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Monkeypox vaccine arrives in Mecklenburg as county reports first case

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There’s no specific vaccine for monkeypox. Instead, health care providers use a smallpox vaccine.

Forty doses of a vaccine used for monkeypox arrived in Mecklenburg County on Monday, according to county health department officials.

The doses came as the county on Monday reported its first incidence of a person contracting monkeypox. Mecklenburg County’s health director, Raynard Washington, told reporters that the resident seems to have contracted the virus from someone outside the county.

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that usually involves flu-like symptoms, swelling of the lymph nodes and a rash. It’s typically spread by skin-to-skin contact. Most infections last two to four weeks.

There’s no specific vaccine for monkeypox. Instead, health care providers use a smallpox vaccine. The vaccine is administered as a series of two doses spaced 28 days apart. The Mecklenburg County Health Department received the doses from North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services on Monday afternoon. At the time, county officials said they had already vaccinated at least one person known to have had close contact with someone with monkeypox.

“Based on the exposure criteria and what is considered an actual exposure … we don’t estimate at this time that there will be a large need for vaccines.” -- Joy Smith, the county health department’s communicable disease coordinator

“We are prepared and are ready to vaccinate close contacts and individuals who may have been exposed in an occupational setting,” Washington said.

Joy Smith, the county health department’s communicable disease coordinator, added: “Based on the exposure criteria and what is considered an actual exposure … we don’t estimate at this time that there will be a large need for vaccines.”

North Carolina health officials identified the first case in the state on Thursday. The state’s Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release the infected North Carolina resident was “isolating at home.” The agency did not release any other information about the case. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now reports a total of two monkeypox cases that have been identified in North Carolina.

Monkeypox cases have also been found in at least 23 other U.S. states and the District of Columbia, according to the CDC. Mecklenburg County officials said more cases are likely.

To prevent the spread of monkeypox, state health officials said, people with unexplained rash, sores or other symptoms should keep the rash covered and contact a health care provider or public health center.

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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.