How colleges are preparing for monkeypox: NPR

How colleges are preparing for monkeypox: NPR

Lake Forest College in Lake Forest is ready to help isolate students if they test positive for monkeypox.

Courtesy of Lake Forest College

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Courtesy of Lake Forest College

Lake Forest College in Lake Forest is ready to help isolate students if they test positive for monkeypox.

Courtesy of Lake Forest College

Andrea Connor has become the “accidental COVID Czar” of Lake Forest College, a small school north of Chicago where she serves as dean of students.

“When COVID started, our crisis response team kind of swelled,” he says.

Now he’s relying on the same team to respond to a new health threat: monkeypox.

“There’s a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety,” says Connor. “That’s why we want to educate people.” Her team is putting together guidelines that explain the signs and symptoms of monkeypox and what to do if a student thinks they may have it. Monkey pox is less contagious than COVID-19, but Connor says it’s a school thing.

Ahead of the new school year, colleges across the country are repurposing the tools they developed during the pandemic to help prevent the monkeypox outbreak, according to the White House. recently declared a public health emergency. Dr. from the American College Health Association (ACHA). Lindsey Mortenson says it’s a different virus with different risks, and colleges have to adapt.

“A lot of colleges and universities are asking, ‘How do we turn the page institutionally?'” Mortenson says. “‘How do we take all these public health-informed practices and apply them in a different context?’ ”

The risk of contracting monkeypox is low, but colleges are starting to see cases

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of monkeypox in the United States is “believed to be low.” More than 7,000 cases were confirmed in the US on Thursday, although experts say the number is much higher due to testing restrictions.

Monkey pox is most commonly associated with a rash that can appear anywhere on the body, including the face, legs, hands, genitals and mouth, the CDC says. However, symptoms can also include fever, headaches, and muscle aches.

The virus is spread through physical contact with the monkeypox rash, and the vast majority of people affected by the current outbreak contracted it through sexual contact. The cases are mostly concentrated in the gay and queer community, primarily among men who have sex with men. But says the CDC sex is not the only way the virus spreads. Transmission by close face-to-face or indirect contact with the rash is possible, although data suggest this is less common.

According to experts, everyone should pay attention to the virus.

Weill Cornell Medical College epidemiologist Dr. “No epidemic is confined to any social network,” says Jay Varma. He adds that while the virus is concentrated in the gay and queer community, “There is no biological reason for it to spread to other groups.”

On college campuses, Varma says, places where students have close physical contact with each other’s skin should be monitored, including locker rooms, gyms and even theater groups.

The virus has already appeared on some college campuses. Georgetown University in Washington, the University of Texas at Austin and West Chester University in Pennsylvania all told NPR there was at least one confirmed case over the summer.

West Chester University spokeswoman Nancy Gainer said: “The student is in isolation and continues to do very well. There is a plan for them to complete their studies remotely and the student will not be returning to campus for the summer.”

On July 28, the ACHA, which represents more than 700 institutions of higher education, sent an email to its members with basic information about monkeypox, but more detailed guidance is still in progress, says Rachel Mack, ACHA’s director of communications. He says ACHA is now coordinating with the CDC to schedule a webinar, and they are also creating an FAQ document to share with members.

“This is all in the early stages and we are currently assembling a panel of experts to help finalize the key issues. [institutions of higher education]”Our goal is to respond to the needs of our members and meet those needs as quickly as we can,” Mack tells NPR in an email.

Monkeypox requires a longer isolation period than coronavirus

COVID-19 is usually contagious in less than 10 days, but monkeypox infection can last for several weeks. This means that a student with the virus may have to isolate for a significant part of the semester.

“This is a very important challenge for the individual who has to endure the level of isolation, as well as for the university, which has to take measures to support it,” says Varma.

One of the problems is that most colleges have switched back to individual instruction After completely walking away in 2020. Schools told NPR that they are still determining what distance learning will look like for marginalized students.

At the University of California, Irvine, where all classes are face-to-face, isolated students are working directly with faculty to decide how to learn remotely, says David Souleles, who leads the school’s COVID-19 response team. “Instructors are encouraged to plan ahead for these types of events,” he explains.

When you arrive where There is great variability among colleges if students with monkeypox are isolated, even where schools reserve housing for students who test positive for COVID.

“Some keep an isolation cell that might be needed for COVID or any infectious diseases,” says Mortenson. “Others have completely abandoned their inventory.”

At Lake Forest College, Andrea Connor works on housing logistics, and she says the school plans to help isolate students if they test positive for monkeypox. They will also help students meet their basic needs, including food and laundry.

At West Chester University, which serves more than 17,000 commuter and residential students, Gainer says the school is “committed to following CDC guidelines and having students.” [who test positive for monkeypox] isolate yourself.”

At Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, the campus health department published one online resource with information about the monkey flower. The school is “developing testing, treatment and isolation protocols for those affected,” said director of media relations Rebecca Valli. “We also consider the potential academic impact and placements that may arise.”

Students are worried about the monkey flower stigma

Because 99% of cases in the US are related to male-to-male sex WHOThere is growing concern about stigma and prejudice against the LGBTQ community.

This bias can have negative public health consequences if it prevents an infected person from seeking treatment and reporting potential exposure to close contacts, an important step in reducing transmission.

Liz Cortes, a student who leads the Queer and Trans Student Alliance at UT Austin, said they are frustrated by the ongoing stigma and are waiting to see if the university addresses it. If the school fails to do so, “we will make it a priority to work with public health officials to provide accurate information and dispel misconceptions about the virus and our community,” Cortes told NPR in an email.

UT Austin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how it intends to address stigma concerns. But school health services website notes that “anyone can get monkeypox, regardless of age or gender.”

Some universities are working with student groups to coordinate education and response efforts. At UC Irvine, Souleles says the school has convened a task force that includes representatives from the LGBT Resource Center. “We also consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines on reducing the stigma associated with monkeypox,” she says.

Student privacy is another concern. Health centers at many larger schools, including UT Austin, the University of Michigan and UC Irvine, are equipped to screen students for monkeypox. But other schools, including Lake Forest, don’t currently have the resources for testing.

Andrea Connor says Lake Forest students must travel off campus to get tested at one of five nearby labs. Connor says one of those labs is an STD clinic, and if a student gets tested there, their insurance can count it as a test for a sexually transmitted infection, even though monkeypox isn’t considered an STD.

“Some members of our community don’t want their parents to see it on their insurance,” Connor explains. “So there’s a lot of layers there.”

Still, Connor says he’s hopeful for the fall semester.

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