The appearance of the monkeypox virus in Maine is an opportunity for the Pandemic Response Team to keep our community informed and educated about this new public health challenge. Like COVID-19 before it, this is another moment that can help us reaffirm our commitment to the spirit of community that is so strong within all of us.
We will focus on the specific symptoms and treatment of this virus; how SJC is preparing for it; and what you can do to keep yourself and each other healthy and safe. There have been no confirmed cases of monkeypox at Saint Joseph's College of Maine to date.
First, monkeypox is not COVID-19. It does not spread as quickly or easily, and it carries a different set of symptoms. Based on current information, it will not require the College to institute the same kind of large-scale changes to our daily experience - like campus-wide quarantining, masking, and testing.
You can learn a great deal about the monkeypox virus from FAQs provided by public health experts. The following is adapted from a recent example from Drexel University:
Q: How does it spread?
A: Anyone can get monkeypox after having close physical contact with someone who has the infection, especially contact with sores, bodily fluids, or other contaminated surfaces. Most often, it spreads through intimate skin-to-skin contact, including during sex, as well as activities like kissing. It can also be spread by respiratory secretions (talking, coughing, sneezing, breathing) during prolonged, close, face-to-face contact. Monkeypox can spread through touching materials used by a person with monkeypox that haven’t been cleaned, such as towels and bedding. Although the monkeypox virus has been found in semen, it is not yet considered a sexually transmitted disease. Monkeypox is not spread through casual conversations or walking by someone with monkeypox. Skin-to-skin, intimate contact remains the most common mode of viral transmission at this time.
Q: What are the symptoms and how long do they last?
A: Once infected, a person may be asymptomatic for one to two weeks, during which the virus is believed by health experts not to be contagious to others. Fever and flu-like symptoms may precede or follow the appearance of a blister-like rash that goes through different stages - usually lasting 1-4 weeks - and is sometimes very painful. The rash could appear as one isolated lesion, or it can cover numerous parts of the body including the mouth, face, hands and genital region. A person is infectious to others from the onset of symptoms until all lesions have crusted over and new skin has formed.
Q: Should I be concerned?
A: It’s important to note that the monkeypox virus does not spread through casual contact and is easier to contain than the airborne COVID-19 virus. Additionally, the medical community has tools for testing, treating and vaccinating monkeypox that were lacking when the coronavirus emerged.
Read the full FAQ for info about treatment, vaccines, and more.
SJC will be closely monitoring members of our community who report monkeypox symptoms to the Health and Wellness Center. As always, if you feel sick, please visit Sheri and her team immediately. While we are currently able to test for monkeypox, there are no vaccines available to the College at this time. We will let you know if and when that situation changes.
Outside of extraordinary circumstances, anyone on campus that contracts monkeypox will be required to isolate at home. The duration of symptoms means that the College cannot generally provide space for isolating on campus, nor meet the day-to-day needs of those who need to isolate. Just as with any illness, academic accommodations should be arranged between students, professors, and the Office of Academic Affairs.
While the spread of a new virus may cause understandable anxiety and fatigue after the past two plus years of COVID, our community is always prepared to exercise our core values of respect, integrity, and compassion. We are always at our best when we look out for each other.
If you have questions about monkeypox or any other health-related concern, please contact the Health and Wellness Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.