Courtesy of Lake Forest College
Andrea Conner has become an “accidental COVID emperor” at Lake Forest College, a small school north of Chicago, and serves as the student dean.
“When COVID started, our crisis team multiplied,” she says.
Now she relies on the same team to respond to a new health threat, monkeypox.
“There are a lot of fears and worries,” Connor says. “That’s why we want to educate people.” Her team has put together guidance detailing the signs and symptoms of monkeypox and what students should do if they think they may be infected. Monkeypox is far less contagious than COVID-19, but Conner says preparation is school work.
Ahead of the new school year, colleges across the country are reusing tools the White House developed during the pandemic to tackle the monkeypox outbreak. We recently declared a public health emergency. It’s a different virus, with different risks, and universities need to adapt, said Dr. Lindsey Mortenson of the American College Health Association (ACHA).
“A lot of colleges and universities are thinking, ‘How do we institutionally turn the page,'” says Mortenson. “‘How can we take all of these public health-based practices and apply them to another situation?'”
Risk of contracting monkeypox is low, but cases are starting to appear in colleges
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of contracting monkeypox in the United States is “considered low.” There were more than 7,000 confirmed cases in the United States as of Thursday, but experts say the number is likely higher due to testing limitations.
Monkeypox is most often associated with a rash that can appear anywhere on the body, including the face, feet, hands, genitals, and mouth, according to the CDC. I also have muscle pain.
The virus is spread by physical contact with the monkeypox rash, and the majority of people affected by the current outbreak seem to have caught it through sexual contact. It’s community focused and mostly focused on men who have sex with men.However CDC says Sexual contact is not the only way the virus is transmitted. Close face-to-face or indirect contact with the rash can lead to transmission, but data show that this is less common.
As a result, experts say everyone should be vigilant about the virus.
Dr. Jay Varma, an epidemiologist at Cornell University Weill School of Medicine, said: He added that while the virus is concentrated in gay and queer communities, “there’s no biological reason why it shouldn’t spread to other groups.”
According to Varma, on college campuses, attention should be paid to places where students come into close physical contact with each other, such as locker rooms, gyms, and even theater groups.
The virus has already appeared on some college campuses. Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., the University of Texas in Austin and Westchester University in Pennsylvania all told NPR that they had at least one confirmed case of her over the summer.
Westchester University spokesperson Nancy Gaynor said: “Students are in quarantine and continue to do very well. There are plans to finish classes remotely and students will not be returning to campus for the summer semester. .
ACHA, which represents more than 700 higher education institutions, sent an email to its members on July 28 with basic information about monkeypox, but more detailed guidance is still in progress, the ACHA said. Communications Director Rachel Mack said. ACHA is currently coordinating with the CDC to schedule a webinar, she said, and is also creating an FAQ document to share with members.
“These are all in early stages and we are currently assembling a team of experts to finalize the most important topics. [institutions of higher education]’, Mack said in an email to NPR.
Monkeypox requires longer isolation period than coronavirus
COVID-19 is usually contagious within 10 days, but monkeypox infection can last for weeks. That means students with the virus may have to quarantine for a good portion of the semester.
“This is a huge challenge for individuals who have to endure that level of isolation and for universities who have to be prepared to support it,” says Varma.
One challenge is that most universities Back to face-to-face instruction After going fully remote in 2020, the school told NPR it’s still deciding what remote learning will look like for isolated students.
At the University of California, Irvine, all classes have returned to in-person, and quarantined students are working directly with faculty to determine how to study remotely, the school’s COVID-19 response team said. said David Souleles, who leads the “Instructors are encouraged to plan ahead for such events,” he explains.
when it comes to Where Monkeypox students are quarantined and there is wide variation between universities, even where schools have reserved housing for COVID-positive students.
“Some people are holding isolation homes because of COVID or other infections they may need,” says Mortenson. “Others have completely abandoned their inventory.”
At Lake Forest College, Andrea Connor is working on housing logistics and plans to help the school isolate students if they test positive for monkeypox, she says. She also helps students meet basic needs such as meals and laundry.
At Westchester University, which serves more than 17,000 attending and residential students, Gainer said the school “is committed to accepting students according to CDC guidelines.” [who test positive for monkeypox] Please self-isolate. ”
The Campus Health Department at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, online resources Contains information about monkeypox. The school is “developing testing, treatment, and isolation protocols for those affected,” says Rebecca Valli, director of media relations. We are also considering possible adjustments.”
Students worry about monkeypox stigma
If that stigma prevents infected people from seeking treatment and informing their close contacts about their possible infection, it can have a negative impact on public health. This is an important step in mitigating diffusion.
Student Liz Cortez, who co-leads the Queer and Trans Student Alliance at the University of Texas at Austin, says she is frustrated by the ongoing stigma and is waiting to see if the university addresses it. If schools fail to do so, “our priority is to provide accurate information and to work with public health officials to address misconceptions about the virus and our community,” Cortez told NPR in an email. I told you.
UT Austin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how it plans to address concerns about stigma.However, school health services website “Anyone can get monkeypox, regardless of age or gender,” he said.
Some universities are working with student groups to coordinate teaching and response efforts. At the University of California, Irvine, the school convened a working group that included representatives from the LGBT Resource Center, Soulles said. “We’re also looking to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce stigma in monkeypox communication,” he says.
Student privacy is another concern. Many large schools, including UT Austin, the University of Michigan, and UC Irvine, have facilities to test for monkeypox in their health centers. But other schools, including Lake Forest, currently don’t have the resources for testing.
According to Andrea Conner, Lake Forest students have to leave campus to take tests at one of five nearby labs. One of those laboratories he said was his STI clinic, and if a student was tested there, monkeypox he wouldn’t be considered an STI, but the student’s insurance would bill it as a sexually transmitted disease test. Connor says it could.
“Some members of our community wouldn’t want their parents to see that in their insurance,” Connor explains. “So there’s a lot of layers there.”
Still, Connor says he still has hopes for the fall semester.
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