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Help Slow the Spread of Monkeypox

Melanie Bennett, Esq.
August 2022
Monkeypox vaccination, education can slow the disease’s spread and prevent misinformation on your campus. 

Monkeypox is a cause for concern as students return to K-12 schools, colleges, and universities in Fall 2022. The virus spread across several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including the United States. On Aug. 4, 2022, the Biden administration declared monkeypox a public health emergency. In the United States, some states and localities have declared a state of emergency due to the number of monkeypox cases reported.

While as of August 2022 most monkeypox cases were among men who have sex with men, all students are at risk of infection. Infections are spreading mostly through close, intimate contact with someone with monkeypox. Education and vaccination can help slow the spread and counter ongoing misinformation.

What Is Monkeypox?

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes monkeypox as a virus that causes a disease similar to smallpox, but less severe. It can be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids, skin lesions, respiratory droplets, and contaminated objects. It is unclear whether the virus is also transmitted through semen or vaginal fluids.

Monkeypox is rarely fatal. Immunocompromised people and children under 8 are the most at risk of severe infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. The most prominent symptom is a rash that looks like pimples or blisters appearing on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus. These CDC photos show some of the variety of monkeypox rashes.

The illness typically lasts two to four weeks.

Inform Your Campus About Monkeypox Prevention and Response

With students returning to campus and to community living arrangements, education is important to curbing the spread of any illness. Use CDC and WHO materials to teach students how to prevent the spread of monkeypox.

Emphasize in communications that anyone can get monkeypox. Promote it as a public health concern for all.

The CDC advises people to take these prevention steps:

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox. 
  • Avoid contact with objects and materials such as bedding, towels, or clothing that a person with monkeypox has used.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating, before touching your face, and after using the bathroom.
  • Take steps to lower your risk during sex. For more information, see the CDC’s

Treatment

The WHO advises anyone who thinks they might have monkeypox to self-isolate and contact a health care provider. Anyone with symptoms of monkeypox should talk to their health care provider, even if they don’t think they had contact with someone with monkeypox.

There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox. In some cases, smallpox antiviral treatments are being used to treat monkeypox.

Vaccinations

Two vaccines can help prevent monkeypox virus infection, though their eligibility is limited. Refer to your state Department of Health for guidance.

  • JYNNEOS is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the prevention of monkeypox. As of August 2022, there was a limited supply of this vaccine.
  • ACAM2000 is approved by the FDA for use against smallpox and made available for use against monkeypox under an Expanded Access Investigational New Drug application. However, people with certain health conditions, such as a weakened immune system, skin conditions like eczema or other exfoliative skin conditions, or pregnancy, should not use this vaccine.

For updated information on vaccine availability, see the CDC website.

Monitor and Communicate

Use the CDC website as a tool to watch state and global case counts. If your institution is in an affected zone, share information with the community. Include prevention and vaccination information in any campus alert and educational material. Provide similar information to traveling students, especially if they’re visiting a country or area experiencing active infections.

Because of the current enhanced risk to men who have sex with men, partner with local LGBTQ+ organizations to distribute information and resources to your LGBTQ+ students.

Misinformation is prevalent with monkeypox. For example, some groups are using this illness in attempts to stigmatize the gay community. Consider monitoring campus communications (including social media) for misinformation, and counter any common myths or stigmas in your alerts. CDC materialscan help ensure accurate information is available.

Use Waivers and Assumption of Risk Forms

Waivers and assumption of risk forms educate students about a location or activity’s inherent risks. Consider including the following in any waiver or assumption of risk form for any travel to affected zones or contact sports:

  • An acknowledgment that the signer received information about the virus from a trusted health organization (such as the CDC or state government)
  • Detailed information about locations or activities that may place a person at risk of contracting the virus
  • Known health conditions associated with the virus
  • An acknowledgment that the signer understands and assumes risks associated with the virus

Consult with an attorney about drafting risk transfer documents, including whether a waiver or assumption of risk form is more appropriate for your activity.

Note for UE members: UE’s risk management advice is distinct from the coverage provided under its policies. For information regarding coverage related to this or other communicable diseases, please review policy language and consult with your broker.

More From UE
Guide to Creating and Improving a Campus Crisis Communications Plan
Additional Resources
ACHA: Monkeypox Virus Resources
American College Health Association: CDC Monkeypox Response Update to Partners
CDC: Monkeypox FAQ for Schools, Early Care and Education Programs, and Other Settings Serving Children or Adolescents
CDC: Monkeypox Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education