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NCDHHS launches Take Pride Now campaign to prevent spread of mpox

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DTH Photo Illustration. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services launched the Take Pride Now campaign in May.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced on May 22 that it launched the Take Pride Now campaign. This campaign promotes prevention, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, specifically mpox.

Mpox was previously called monkeypox, but the World Health Organization recommended the new name due to stigmatizing language reportedly being used to describe the disease.

The Take Pride Now campaign encourages North Carolinians to take part in safer sex practices and prioritize sexual health with vaccinations and regular testing.

The NCDHHS encourages mpox vaccinations and healthy practices prior to traveling and attending pride events.

Mpox is a viral illness that can cause symptoms such as rash, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, low energy and swollen lymph nodes. The disease can also include skin lesions, and symptoms typically last for two to four weeks.

The virus can be transmitted via physical contact with someone who is infectious, contaminated materials or an infected animal, according to a WHO fact sheet.

As of May 24 in North Carolina, the Jynneos vaccine has been administered 26,173 times and there have been 709 mpox cases. According to the NCDHHS website, 96 percent of cases have been among men and 67 percent of infected individuals have been Black.

“We’re really encouraging individuals who seem to be at a higher risk of affronting the virus and potentially becoming infected to get vaccinated,” Mike DeFranco, the public health services manager for the communicable disease division at the Orange County Health Department, said.

He said the OCHD provides Jynneos — a two-dose series of vaccines — and that after the immunization started circulating, mpox cases began decreasing statewide.

DeFranco said after the recent resurgence of mpox cases in Chicago, the OCHD has seen an increase in vaccine interest.

“The concern is, with warmer weather, with festivals, with gatherings in which people can have pretty close contact, that there could be another spike,” Dr. David Wohl, a professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the UNC School of Medicine, said. 

DeFranco said the OCHD provides information about vaccinations, exposure and testing sites. He said the department is trying to make individuals aware of the available resources.

T. Hunter, the health case manager at the LGBTQ Center of Durham, said the center has partnered with Durham County Public Health to host vaccine drives in the past. 

The center also hosts HIV and STI testing multiple times a month. The next testing event will occur from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on June 14.

“The best means of helping folks is by bridging access to gaps and services, especially for marginalized communities," Hunter said. "So being in the community and helping with getting vaccine drives out, providing education, dispelling myths, things like that are big."

Hunter said they believe that mpox cases can occur at any time and there are ways of providing support without targeting specific events.

Wohl said people congregate for many reasons and he doesn’t think that Pride Month specifically will cause a sizable spike in mpox cases. He also said the mpox vaccine is very safe and if someone feels they are at risk and qualify, they should get vaccinated. 

“We really need to balance not stigmatizing people or ostracizing people or making people feel bad, but at the same time, make sure folks who might be at risk — no matter who they are or their backgrounds — have the information they need to protect themselves,” he said.

@ZoeWerner356

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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