Elon University / Campus Health Status and Alerts / Monkeypox

What is monkeypox and how is it spread?

Transmission of monkeypox occurs through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or spread of droplets through sharing bedding, clothing, drinks, etc. The risk of contracting the virus by occupying dormitories, classrooms, and other university spaces appears to be minimal because casual contact is low risk.

How is monkeypox different from COVID-19?

Key differences make monkeypox a less serious threat than COVID-19:

  • Monkeypox is spread primarily through skin-to-skin contact and is less contagious than COVID-19.
  • Monkeypox outbreaks are easier to control than COVID-19 because the spread of infection requires close contact with infectious particles rather than casual contact, and people with monkeypox are usually not contagious until symptoms appear.
  • Existing vaccines are already available, have been previously tested, and provide some protection against monkeypox.
  • Monkeypox is usually a mild and self-limiting condition; it is rarely fatal.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox and how long do they last?

According to the CDC, people with monkeypox develop a rash that may be on or near the genitals or anus, and may be in other areas such as the arms, legs, chest, face, or mouth. The rash will go through several stages, including scabbing, before it heals. The rash may initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and back pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Shivering
  • Exhaustion
  • Respiratory symptoms (eg sore throat, stuffy nose, cough)

Symptoms of monkeypox usually begin within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. If someone has flu-like symptoms, they will usually develop a rash 1-4 days later.

Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms appear until the rash heals, all the scabs fall off, and a new layer of skin forms. The illness usually lasts 2-4 weeks.

What steps can be taken to prevent transmission of monkeypox?

The CDC suggests the following steps people can take to avoid contracting monkeypox:

Avoid close skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.

  • Do not touch the rash or scabs on a person with monkeypox.
  • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle, or have sex with someone who has monkeypox or other skin lesions.

Avoid contact with objects and materials that have been used by a person with monkeypox.

  • Do not share cutlery or glasses with a person with monkeypox.
  • Do not touch or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.

Wash your hands often.

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after using the bathroom.

Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, although sexual contact has so far been the primary source of transmission in the United States. The CDC’s guidelines for safer sex and social gatherings are an important source of information for reducing your personal risk of contracting the virus. Even with this information, keep in mind that transmission can occur through other forms of non-sexual contact noted above, and the virus is not limited to the populations that have been most affected thus far.

Is there a monkeypox vaccine?

Yes, there is a vaccine, and it can be an effective tool to protect people against monkeypox disease when administered before or after recent exposure. We encourage members of the university community to receive the monkeypox vaccine if and when eligible. Updated information on vaccine eligibility criteria for North Carolina is on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

Vaccines are currently available from some county health departments. The closest locations to Elon University are currently Guilford and Durham counties, but information will be updated when the Alamance County Health Department begins providing the vaccine in our county.

What should I do if I have symptoms or am concerned about possible exposure to monkeypox?

Testing for monkeypox is widely available. If a student, faculty or staff member knows they have had close contact with someone who has been diagnosed or begins to develop symptoms of monkeypox, they should avoid contact with other people and seek medical advice as soon as possible. Students can make an in-person appointment at Student Health Services or a virtual medical appointment through TimelyCare. Staff and faculty can make an appointment at the Faculty/Staff Health and Wellness Clinic.

What is the current status of monkeypox in North Carolina and the United States?

The current status of cases in the state of North Carolina can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services monkeypox website.

The CDC has a situation summary website with an overview of the outbreak in the United States, a map of US cases, and information on case trends.

Is Elon developing plans or protocols for monkeypox?

University leaders consulted with health department leadership in developing response plans and will continue to consult regularly with Alamance County Health Department (ACHD) leadership, building on the strong relationship developed over the past several years. In the event of a confirmed case, Elon and ACHD will work with state health authorities to rapidly mobilize for response.

Many of the tools we used to manage mumps and COVID-19 outbreaks on campus—testing, quarantine/isolation, and masking—are strategies that can be applied to manage monkeypox cases if needed. But it’s also important to remember that transmission of monkeypox is very different from COVID-19.

The University will continue the cleaning and disinfection protocols that have been developed to address COVID-19 and to support a wide range of community health concerns. This includes protocols for washing items.

The university also works to provide community information and education, support the physical and mental health of students, faculty and staff, destigmatize exposure and reduce barriers to testing, treatment and vaccination.

The Infectious Disease Response Team continues to meet weekly to monitor COVID-19, monkeypox and other community health issues, develop coordinated response protocols, and make recommendations to senior university leaders. Information and updates will continue to be available throughout the semester.

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