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Monkeypox isn't expected to be as bad COVID-19, but institutions should be prepared. Photo: Pexels.

What colleges should do to address monkeypox on campus

College students often get in close contact with each other, and some experts warn of the possibility of cases growing.

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Concentrated in some African countries up until this year, monkeypox is a disease that presents as a rash near the genitals, and in other parts of the body — including the face, chest, feet and hands. Other, flu-like symptoms lasting from two weeks to a month are also expected. Fever, chills and swollen lymph nodes are the most common. 

It is spread through skin-to-skin contact or by touching contaminated objects and, as of now, more than 9,000 cases have already been identified in the United States, according to the CDC. Although rarely fatal, the Biden administration declared the disease a public health emergency last week. 

Although not as transmissible and infectious as the COVID-19 virus, monkeypox will require institutions to be prepared for potential cases in the Fall. Higher Ed Dive heard from health experts about what should be done to prevent its spread. Considering that college students often get in close contact with each other, Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, warned of the possibility of cases growing. 

The isolation period for monkeypox should be between five and 10 days, and considering colleges have been dealing with the COVID-19 for the past years, they should have appropriate housing for infected students, Adalja said.  

For Dr. Sarah Van Orman — chief health officer of University of Southern California Student Health and past president of the American College Health Association — the most important action colleges should do now is to properly message the disease. It is important to show the difference between COVID-19 and monkeypox, she added.  

Recent studies have shown that monkeypox is primarily circulating among gay and bisexual men, and it has been spread through sexual activity. However, it is important that specfically educational institutions highlight that monkeypox is neither a sexually transmitted infection, nor is it exclusively confined to gay or queer men, Van Orman said. 

Sharing information through the institution's official website and social media, as well as messaging the student body about the disease are great ways that an institutional message can be spread. Besides that, the obvious encouragement for students and employees to get tested can help prevent the spread. 

When it comes to getting vaccinated, campuses won’t be able to serve as vaccination sites like they did for COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved only two vaccines to be used, and they are limited. Jynneos is the newer and most common vaccine, a shot in the arm; the other, ACAM2000, is older, and is unsafe for those with some specific conditions. What colleges can do to help in this case is to connect students with health agencies providers of the vaccine, Van Orman said.  

To learn more about the measures and what universities are saying about the topic, click here. 

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