By Karen Stokes
Last year college students headed back to campus learning how to navigate through the Covid-19 pandemic. This year students are now learning about Monkeypox and feeling concerned about their health.
Monkeypox is not like Covid-19.
“Monkeypox is a rare disease, it’s something that we don’t often see. It’s part of the general variola viruses family, the virus that causes smallpox,” said Brandon J. Hill, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Vivent Health.
Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.
People with monkeypox get a rash that may be located on their genitals or could be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.
The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing. The rash can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.
“Those are the most notable ones; the other symptoms people may experience are fever, chills and swollen lymph nodes that can happen before or simultaneously with the rash or lesion,” said Hill.
According to the CDC, Monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including, direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs or body fluids from a person with monkeypox, touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels) and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox and contact with respiratory secretions.
Monkeypox symptoms usually start 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 be spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
“Covid-19 spreads much more easily than Monkeypox,” Hill said. “As young people head off to college campuses, education and prevention is the best start for parents and students to do to keep students healthy.”
Hill explains that right now the infections are occurring mainly in a specific population. Any students who are part of the gay, bisexual, trans or non-binary community and men who have sex with men should consider vaccination. He advises that students should not share bed spaces with anyone who currently has or has had Monkeypox the same as limiting those shared spaces for those who have had symptoms or probable cases of monkeypox.
“Anybody can get Monkeypox,” Hill warns. “The tests are showing the high numbers are among gay and bi-sexual men, but it is affecting a wider range of individuals.”
“In other countries transmission is high among children because they share bed spaces and communal living,” Hill added. “Monkeypox is a zoological disease, it can be transmitted by animals, primarily rodents. When rodents are nesting in your house they can leave debris in bedding.”
Testing is available at Vivent Health in Milwaukee and there are a few federally qualified health centers and community health partners within Milwaukee County offering testing as well. The testing is under the guidance of the CDC.
“Right now you can’t walk into any local pharmacy to get tested. The only testing done is testing on the rash or lesions. There is also a vaccine available, it is an overall smallpox vaccine. It can be injected in the skin or under the skin like a TB test. It’s administered in two doses,” said Hill.
As of September 1, 2022, there are a total of 19,465 confirmed monkeypox cases in the United States and there are a total of 56 cases in Wisconsin, according to the CDC case tracker.