Back to School: What to Know About Monkeypox

On top of the common illnesses that spread on college campuses each year and COVID-19, there’s another virus thrown into the mix this year: monkeypox.

Monkeypox is a painful virus spread primarily through skin contact, and the number of cases is rising. With the semester approaching, many institutions are preparing for possible outbreaks, and students should take proper precautions to protect themselves.

According to the CDC, more than 10,000 confirmed monkeypox cases are in the U.S. as of August 2022. So what does this mean for students returning to school in the coming weeks?

Here are some essential things you need to know about monkeypox before returning to campus this semester. 

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is an infection caused by a virus related to smallpox. It causes a similar, but typically less severe, illness and is most common in central and western Africa. 

Intrinsically, news about a relatively unknown virus spreading quickly around the world reminds us of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But monkeypox is not a new virus. It was first discovered in 1958, and several characteristics cause it likely to be less detrimental than COVID-19.

What are the symptoms?

Some of the symptoms of the virus are similar to the common cold, the flu, and even Covid; however, some are very distinctive. The early signs of monkeypox include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Spots or rash

The rash that appears a few days after infection is quite distinctive. In many cases, it starts on the face or center of the body and then spreads to the palms, arms, legs, and other body parts. Monkeypox is highly contagious. Over a week or two, the rash shifts from small, flat spots to little blisters like chicken pox to more prominent, pus-filled blisters that can take multiple weeks to scab over. After this happens, the individual is no longer contagious.

While the disease is typically not too severe, difficulties are a possibility. They can include pneumonia, vision loss due to eye infection, and sepsis, a more serious and life-threatening illness.

Cases can vary from person to person; some infected may only experience a rash, while others can get a rash along with other symptoms. Luckily, most cases clear up in two to four weeks.

You should see your health care provider if you have new or unexplained rashes, sores, or other symptoms and suspect you may have contracted the virus.

How is Monkeypox Spread?

Generally, this illness transpires in those who have had contact with infected animals, but that’s not the only way to contract the virus.

It can also be spread between people in three ways:

  • Breathing respiratory droplets
  • Direct contact with someone infected
  • Less commonly seen but via indirect touch such as holding an infected person’s clothing

Because the respiratory route involves large droplets that don’t linger in the air or travel far, person-to-person spread typically requires prolonged, intimate contact. 

Many experts encourage colleges to prepare for possible outbreaks, mentioning their densely inhabited residential locations and students’ social and sexual networks.

After two years of social isolation, students will likely be interested in heavy socialization, which has the potential for college to be a hotbed for infection. Hopefully, in the wake of Covid-19, institutions will be better prepared to handle an outbreak if one arises. 

What’s Next?

Because the virus needs to be contained, your school should have a plan, such as isolation housing, testing sites, and contact tracing from the Covid-19 protocol—which may help combat monkeypox cases more effectively.

With the rising infection rates, the CDC has advised on how to deal with monkeypox in congregate living environments. Nevertheless, nothing precise has come down from the CDC for colleges and universities.

Remember to protect yourself this school year from COVID-19, monkeypox, and other injuries or illnesses that may be unexpected. Many things can interfere with your ability to finish your degree, but taking care of your physical and mental well-being should be a top priority. Be sure to stay home if you aren’t feeling well and ask for assistance or speak with a healthcare provider if you fall ill.

Because monkeypox may be spread to extended, direct contact, try to limit foreign things you touch and be mindful of those with whom you have close contact. Also, remember to be safe and wash your hands frequently. If you believe you may have been infected with the monkeypox virus, please reachout to a healthcare provider.

Protection from the Unexpected

Suppose you get sick and need to leave school, whether from mono, a concussion, anxiety, or other common but covered illnesses and injuries commonly impacting college students. In that case, there is a way to protect your investment.

Tuition Insurance can protect up to 100% of your family’s education investment for a small fraction of your overall tuition costs should a student withdraws for a covered medical reason.

Tuition insurance can provide reimbursement for a covered medical withdrawal due to a:

  • Covered Serious Injury or Illness, including Covid-19
  • Covered Mental Health Conditions
  • Covered Chronic Illness

As monkeypox cases rise and we continue to see Covid-19 instances, it’s smart to be vigilant when you return to campus this fall. Dealing with virus outbreaks is nothing new to us by now. Have a safe and healthy semester!