North Carolina prisons say no cases of monkeypox have yet been reported

So far, no cases of monkeypox have been detected in state prisons, and the state prison system is preparing for the virus, a prison system spokesperson said Wednesday.

Monkeypox is spread through skin-to-skin contact, contact with clothing or linens used by someone with monkeypox, exposure to respiratory droplets or other bodily fluids from someone with virus.

The state prison system is currently screening prison residents for monkeypox and offering “targeted vaccination in accordance with (federal and state) guidelines), disinfection, testing protocols, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, as well as treatment,” said John Bullspokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

Everyone currently incarcerated is screened once, and new residents are screened upon arrival, Bull said. The screen is a questionnaire “to better determine an offender’s risk of contracting monkeypox,” Bull said.

“In the event that individuals are suspected of having the virus, they will presumably be isolated. If lab results confirm the diagnosis of monkeypox, further interventions will be determined through extensive contact tracing,” Bull said.

Bull said the agency is also trying to reduce the stigma associated with monkeypox.

At a recent town hall on monkeypox and the state prison system, a slideshow said prison management “has waived adverse actions for any conduct that offenders disclose during contact tracing that, under normal circumstances, could be an offense (such as intimate contact with other offenders.)”

The system also waives all medical co-payments related to monkeypox issues.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 13,500 people in the United States have been confirmed infected with monkeypox. That includes 188 cases in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

North Carolina’s first case was identified on June 23. According to state health information, nearly all cases of monkeypox in North Carolina have been in men who have had sex with men.

Amid the spike in infections, on July 23, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency.

If there is an outbreak of monkeypox in the state prison system, Bull said, the agency has contracts with outside medical experts, including UNC Health.

“Prisons have adequate doses of the vaccine and have administered the vaccine to people who meet the current criteria established by NCDHHS,” he said.

This includes gay or bisexual men, or transgender people who report having multiple sex partners or anonymous sex, anyone who has been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, and those taking medication to prevent HIV infection.

People infected with monkeypox can have painful, festering lesions that can last for weeks. People are no longer contagious once the scabs have fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed, according to the CDC.

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