By Emma Reilly
As the nation continues to grapple with COVID-19, another virus is making the rounds through our media cycle and public health discourse: monkeypox.
Though concerns related to COVID-19 cases on campus may reign supreme for many students, monkeypox is still worth incorporating into our collective campus consciousness.
Monkeypox is a “rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Infection often presents as flu-like symptoms — fever, chills, fatigue, and aches — followed by a rash located on the genitals, face, hands, feet, chest, or mouth. According to the CDC, the disease is “rarely fatal.”
Despite this designation, concerns related to the uptick of monkeypox cases in the U.S. are proving increasingly relevant.
According to the New York Times, the death of a person diagnosed with monkeypox in Los Angeles County marks the second such incident.
“It is the second known death of a person diagnosed with the disease in the U.S., which has reported more cases of the viral illness this year than anywhere in the world,” the New York Times said. “Health officials are investigating what, if any, role monkeypox played in the two deaths.”
The first monkeypox outbreak occurred in the U.S. in 2003, according to the World Health Organization. Cases began cropping up again in May 2022.
As of Sept. 9, there were 21,894 reported cases of monkeypox in the United States, with 571 of those cases being in Maryland, according to the CDC.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared monkeypox a public health crisis on Aug. 4, according to the department’s website.
Public health official on all scales — local, national, and global — are clearly keeping a close eye on the virus’s spread. According to Washington College’s Contingency Planning Group, so is the College.
According to an Aug. 26 update, the CPG is “closely monitoring the development of monkeypox cases.”
The CPG believes that the College is “well equipped to handle” any cases of monkeypox that may occur due to the “best practices and protocols that have become standard over the last couple years,” according to the email.
The CDC and WHO do not have any guidelines related to preventing the spread of monkeypox at institutions like the College in place right now.
Keeping the community informed about changes to our risk level, providing access to well-researched monkeypox resources, and instructing people how to monitor their own health is the best WC can do — at present — to protect students, faculty, and staff.
WC is well on its way to thoughtfully managing monkeypox concerns, barring that the College implements any updated suggestions or guidance that WHO or the CDC may implement in the future.
In the meantime, we as students also have a responsibility to monitor our health and report any symptoms that may indicate infection with the monkeypox virus.
Anyone interested in learning more about identifying and preventing monkeypox can visit the CDC’s website. Information specific to monkeypox in Maryland is available on the Maryland Department of Health’s website.
Monkeypox vaccinations are available throughout Maryland for free at www.marylandmatters.org.