CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — On Saturday, the World Health Organization officially declared monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
The CDC’s latest data shows there are 16,836 worldwide, the vast majority of them are in countries that have not historically reported monkeypox. They indicate the United States has 2,890 cases.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reports 27 cases as of Friday. On Wednesday, Mecklenburg County reported 12 cases, which accounted for more than half of the state’s case count at the time.
Like most cases of the virus, local cases have been found primarily in men who have sex with other men, though monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease. According to the CDC, monkeypox spreads through direct contact with the infectious rash, respiratory/bodily secretions, or contact with items that have touched the infectious rash or body fluids.
“It’s exhausting, to be honest. It’s just one thing after another and I’m tired,” said Charlotte resident Veronica Edwards. “Initially they said it was no big thing, and there’s nothing to worry about. And now it’s like, here we are talking about it.”
For the first time ever, the chief of the World Health Organization declared the PHEIC without the recommendation of the expert emergency committee. It has people wondering if perhaps COVID creating a more health-conscious world led to pressure to declare an emergency.
“It’s the way of the world and the way things are changing,” said Dion Ousley. “We’re much more health conscious than when I was younger. I’m in my 60s now, and it’s a whole different realm of the way people live their lives and try to be healthy and stay healthy.”
According to Mecklenburg County health officials, the issue they’re currently facing isn’t testing those who may be positive, it’s treating those at risk.
“I and our team continue to advocate for more vaccine allocation in Mecklenburg County, particularly given the great impact the outbreak is having here,” said Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington in a virtual update he gave on Wednesday.
Earlier in July, the county received 667 doses of the monkeypox vaccine, but since it’s a two-dose series, they were only able to administer the treatment to about 330 people. Currently, appointments for those vaccinations are currently full and the county is keeping a waitlist for high-risk individuals who qualify. It had hundreds of people on it.
“We’ve heard at least that the CDC will be making more allocations available over the next several weeks as we move into additional phases of the vaccine rollout,” said Dr. Washington.
The only people who are currently qualified to receive the vaccine are those who have come into close contact with an infected individual, or men who have sex with men and have had multiple or anonymous partners within the last 14 days.