Danforth Campus Students:
Recently, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern. Monkeypox has spread throughout the United States however, the current risk to the general public remains low.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox is part of the same family of viruses that cause smallpox. Two main strains of the monkeypox virus are known to exist; the milder strain is currently circulating. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.
While the LGBTQIA+ community has been impacted significantly, monkeypox can affect anyone regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, and we are examining and preparing our entire community for the possibility of cases on campus.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox might start with symptoms like the flu, with fever, low energy, swollen lymph nodes and general body aches. Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, the person can develop a rash or sores. People with monkeypox may experience all or only a few of these symptoms however most will develop the rash or sores somewhere on their body (including only inside the mouth, rectum or vagina). Symptoms usually start within two weeks of exposure to the virus, but can occur up to three weeks later. The illness is usually mild, although can be painful and result in permanent scarring. Severe cases may occur in young children, pregnant people, or people with suppressed immune systems (including those with HIV).
How is monkeypox spread?
The most common route of transmission is direct physical contact with monkeypox rash, sores, or scabs (often through sexual and other close/intimate touch).
Other routes of transmission include:
- Through respiratory droplets or oral fluids (e.g., saliva) shared during kissing or other prolonged face-to-face contact
- Contact with objects or fabrics (e.g., clothing, bedding, or towels) that have been used by someone with monkeypox
Monkeypox is not spread through casual brief conversations or walking by someone with monkeypox.
Who is at risk?
Depending on behavior, anyone in close contact with someone who has monkeypox could become infected. (See “How is it spread?” above.)
Public health data indicate that during this current outbreak, some populations are being infected by monkeypox more than others. Among U.S. monkeypox cases with available data, 99% occurred in men, 94% of whom reported recent male-to-male sexual or close intimate contact.
However, transmission is a function of behavior, not identities. (See “How is it spread?” above.)
Is there a vaccine?
Yes. Vaccination helps to protect against monkeypox when given before or shortly after an exposure. In the United States, JYNNEOS is the monkeypox vaccine being offered and administered in these situations, althoughACAM2000 (the smallpox vaccine) is also being considered. At this time, the federal government has allocated a very limited number of vaccine doses to Missouri and are only available through local Public Health Departments. Vaccination is being prioritized for individuals at the highest risk
Are there other ways to prevent the disease?
Given that the monkeypox vaccine supply is still limited, you can reduce the chance of acquiring or spreading the virus when you:
- Limit the number of close / intimate contacts and follow additional safer sex tips provided by the CDC
- Avoid sharing personal items and objects, towels, bedding, clothing
- Request medical evaluation and testing if symptoms arise
- Follow isolation instructions if provided by your healthcare provider
- Get vaccinated (if eligible]) when vaccine is available
Antiviral medications may be appropriate to treat monkeypox symptoms. Where available, vaccination can reduce the chance and severity of infection in those who have been exposed. They may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, like patients with weakened immune systems.
How is the campus preparing?
Habif Medical Services providers have been trained in identifying monkeypox, and our laboratory is prepared to collect and send samples for testing. We continue to work closely with our infectious disease colleagues on the medical campus regarding treatment of monkeypox and with the St. Louis Public Health Department regarding prevention and mitigation. There are plans for isolation spaces for students living on campus who contract monkeypox and need to be isolated until the infectious period has passed.
What to do if you have had an exposure or symptoms
If you have had an exposure, have symptoms you are concerned about, or need to speak with someone about your risk, please reach out to Habif Medical Services. Students can schedule appointments Monday-Friday by calling (314) 935-4959, or speak with a health care provider after-hours and weekends by accessing TimelyCare through the TimelyCare app.
We understand that news of a new infectious disease on top of the last few years of the COVID-19 pandemic can be concerning and result in feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Mental health resources are available through Habif Mental Health Services.
As additional information becomes available, we will update this page.