DHEC confirms first cases of monkeypox infection in South Carolina

Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 9:15 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2022 at 6:12 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Friday that the first two cases of monkeypox infection in the state have been confirmed.

The affected individuals will be monitored until they are no longer infectious to prevent the spread of the virus and will be isolated if needed, according to the agency.

One case is in a person in the Midlands region and the other is a person in the Lowcountry region.

“We understand residents have concerns about how this virus might impact our state,” said Dr. Linda Bell, a state epidemiologist. “We expected infections to eventually occur in South Carolina as part of the larger international outbreak, which is why DHEC has been planning a response for weeks. That said, monkeypox doesn’t spread easily and we believe the risk to the general population remains low at this time.”

DHEC said appropriate care will be provided as needed.

“We do need to monitor for new cases in our population and anyone that’s concerned about a new rash, an unexplained rash, especially if they have other, unexplained symptoms,” said Bell. “We encourage them to see their healthcare provider and to let their healthcare provider know that they’re concerned about monkeypox and this may be in someone who may be aware that they have had some risky exposure.”

Monkeypox isn’t easily spread from person to person, and the virus is usually transmitted through direct contact with rashes, scabs, or bodily fluids.

“I do want to emphasize that at this time the majority of cases that have been identified are among the sexual contacts of people who have had the infection,” said Bell. “The majority of people can avoid contact that close, prolonged or intimate contact with someone who has active lesions. So this is not a concern at this time for contact sports or children in school settings.”

In a report published this week, officials with the World Health Organization say they’ve confirmed more than 2,600 cases since June 27 and two new monkeypox-related deaths in that time frame.

There has been a worldwide increase of cases so far this year, with 6,027 reported as of Monday.

“I should mention that the majority of people who get monkeypox that their illness does resolve without treatment over the course of maybe two-to-four weeks,” said Bell. “But you know, at any time we would want, a pregnant woman for example, to avoid any illness, because oftentimes even mild illness can cause pregnancy complications and anyone who’s immune-compromised, again, may be at increased risk of complications.”

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness. The typical illness begins with flu-like symptoms and swelling of the lymph nodes that progresses to a rash on the face and body, but we are learning that many cases in the current outbreak do not have the typical onset and the rash may only appear on part of the body. Most infections last two to four weeks. Monkeypox is a reportable condition in South Carolina as a novel infectious agent. Healthcare providers are asked to notify DHEC of any patient that they suspect may have monkeypox to receive guidance about the recommended evaluation.

Monkeypox is not easily transmitted from person to person. It can be spread through prolonged face-to-face contact, skin-to-skin contact including sexual contact, and through contaminated materials (clothing or linens of an infected person).

If you are concerned that you have been exposed to someone with monkeypox infection or have a new, unusual rash, please seek medical attention from your usual healthcare provider, visit an urgent care center, or call your local health department.

Though the risk to the general population remains low, we encourage the public to inform themselves about monkeypox through reliable sources, including the DHEC website and the CDC website.

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