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Mecklenburg County to offer monkeypox vaccine for people at high risk

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that usually involves flu-like symptoms, swelling of the lymph nodes and a rash.

Mecklenburg County will now offer the monkeypox vaccine to people at high risk of contracting the virus. The county health department said in a news release the vaccine will be available for free starting Wednesday at its two clinic locations.

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.

The vaccine, called JYNNEOS, can prevent illness or lead to less severe symptoms if given within 14 days of when someone is exposed to monkeypox. It’s administered as a series of two doses spaced 28 days apart.

People who self-identify as high risk can receive the vaccine in Mecklenburg County. People at high risk, according to the county, are those who have been in close physical contact in the past 14 days with someone diagnosed with monkeypox or those who know their sexual partner was diagnosed with monkeypox.

The high-risk criteria also include men who have sex with men, or transgender people, who have had “multiple or anonymous sex partners in the 14 days in either a venue where monkeypox was present or in an area where the virus is spreading,” the county said. Those areas, according to the county, include several locations in Europe and parts of California, Washington, D.C., Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Texas.

North Carolina had reported six monkeypox cases as of Tuesday morning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mecklenburg County identified its first case on June 27. The county’s health director, Raynard Washington, told reporters at the time that the resident seemed to have contracted the virus from someone outside the county.

North Carolina health officials on June 23 announced they had identified the first monkeypox case in the state. At the time, 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.

To schedule a monkeypox vaccine appointment in Mecklenburg County, people can call (980) 314-9400 or go online. The health department’s two locations are both in Charlotte at 2845 Beatties Ford Rd. and 249 Billingsley Rd.

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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.