The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirms a case of monkeypox in University Park

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed that a student at the University of Pennsylvania Park campus tested positive for monkeypox on August 13. The patient lives off campus, was seen by health care providers and is currently in isolation and recovering.

University Health Services (UHS), a division of Penn State Student Affairs, contacted the Pennsylvania Department of Health and together they continue to monitor the case. Close contacts of the student have been identified and notified through contract tracing conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Monkeypox is a viral infection that spreads primarily through prolonged close contact. It is not a sexually transmitted disease. Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes. To date, there have been no reports of deaths in the United States due to the monkeypox virus. In most cases, monkeypox clears up on its own without prescription medication.

Monkeypox often starts with fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, general discomfort and exhaustion. Usually within one to three days of the onset of fever, the patient develops a rash, often first on the face, but sometimes initially on other parts of the body.

Due to the current outbreak of the virus in the US, which began in the spring of 2022, the university urges students to take precautions against monkeypox and to self-isolate and contact UHS or their health care provider if they develop symptoms. Students may also call the 24-hour Counseling Nurse at 814-865-4UHS (4847) and press 3.

Transmission and prevention

Because monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it can be spread outside of sexual contact. It can also be contracted by all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. It spreads in four main ways:

  • Direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids.
  • Direct contact with respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact such as kissing, cuddling or sex.
  • Direct contact with objects or tissues that have previously touched the rash or body fluids of someone with monkeypox.
  • A scratch or bite from an infected animal.

The virus is contagious from the onset of symptoms until the rash completely heals and a new layer of skin forms, which can take two to four weeks.

To protect themselves from monkeypox, students and others should avoid close skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox. Other precautions include:

  • Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
  • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone 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 frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

What to do if you get monkeypox

UHS advises University Park students who develop symptoms of monkeypox to schedule an appointment with UHS or call the 24-hour consultation nurse at 814-865-4UHS (4847) and press 3. Commonwealth Campus students should visit their campus health center or other health service provider for next steps and testing. Students with an active rash or symptoms should self-isolate at home and stay in a separate room away from other people or pets whenever possible.

Faculty and staff with symptoms of monkeypox should stay home from work and contact their healthcare provider for testing or other next steps. Employees who test positive should isolate themselves at home, away from others in their household, and arrange to work remotely if possible or use sick time until their isolation period ends.

Anyone who may have been in contact with a person with monkeypox should closely monitor their health, watch for symptoms, and contact UHS or their health care provider to make an appointment if they occur symptoms.

In most cases, monkeypox clears up on its own without prescription medication. Sometimes a prescription drug may be recommended based on the location or severity of the rash, or if the patient has other conditions that compromise the immune system. There may be vaccines for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and people who are at higher risk of being exposed to monkeypox.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health monitors the supply of monkeypox vaccine and coordinates the distribution of the vaccination to allow the people who need it most to have access to the vaccine.

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