What is monkeypox and how is it spread?

The transmission of monkeypox is through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, or the spread of droplets through shared use of linens, clothes, drinks, etc. The risk of contracting the virus through occupying residence halls, classrooms, and other university spaces seems to be minimal, as casual contact is low risk.

How is monkeypox different from COVID-19?

Key differences make monkeypox a less serious threat than COVID-19:

  • Monkeypox is spread primarily through skin-to-skin contact and is less contagious than COVID-19.
  • Outbreaks of monkeypox are easier to contain than COVID-19 since spreading the infection requires close contact with infectious particles, not casual contact, and people with monkeypox are generally not contagious until after symptoms appear.
  • Existing vaccines are already available, have already been previously tested, and provide some protection against monkeypox.
  • Monkeypox is typically a mild and self-limiting condition; it is rarely fatal.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox and how long do they last?

According to the CDC, people with monkeypox get a rash that may be located on or near the genitals or anus and 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.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, cough)

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.

What steps can be taken to prevent transmission of monkeypox?

The CDC offers the following steps that individuals can take to avoid contracting monkeypox:

Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.

  • Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
  • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone who has monkeypox or any skin lesions.

Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.

  • Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
  • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels or clothing of a person with monkeypox.

Wash your hands often.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.

Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, although sexual contact has been a primary source of transmission in the United States thus far. CDC guidelines for safer sex and social gatherings is an important resource of information to reduce personal risk of contracting the virus. Even with this information, keep in mind that transmission can occur through other forms of non-sexual contact noted above and the virus is not confined to the populations that have been most affected to this point.

Is there a monkeypox vaccine?

Yes, there is a vaccine, and it can be an effective tool at protecting people against monkeypox illness when administered before or after a recent exposure. We encourage members of the university community to receive the monkeypox vaccine if and when they are eligible. Updated information about vaccine eligibility criteria for North Carolina is on the Department of Health and Human Services website.

Vaccines are available through some county health departments at this time. The closest locations to Elon University are currently Guilford and Durham counties, but information will be updated as the Alamance County Health Department begins providing the vaccine in our county.

What should I do if I have symptoms or am concerned about possible monkeypox exposure?

Testing for monkeypox is widely available. If a student, faculty or staff member knows they have had close contact with someone who has been diagnosed, or begins to develop symptoms of monkeypox, they should avoid contact with others and seek medical consultation as soon as possible. Students can make an in-person appointment at Student Health Services or a virtual medical appointment through TimelyCare. Staff and faculty can make an appointment at the Faculty/Staff Health & Wellness Clinic.

What is the current status of monkeypox in North Carolina and the United States?

The current status of cases in the state of North Carolina can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services monkeypox website.

The CDC has a situation summary website with an overview of the outbreak in the United States, a map of U.S. cases, and information about case trends.

Is Elon developing plans or protocols for monkeypox?

University leaders have consulted with health department leadership in the development of response plans and will continue to consult regularly with leadership from the Alamance County Health Department (ACHD), benefiting from strong relationships developed over the course of the past several years. In the event of a confirmed case, Elon and ACHD will work with state health authorities to mobilize quickly to respond.

Many of the tools we used to manage campus outbreaks of mumps and COVID-19 – testing, quarantine/isolation, and masking – are strategies that could be deployed to manage cases of monkeypox, if necessary. But it is also important to remember that transmission of monkeypox is very different from COVID-19.

The university will continue the cleaning and disinfection protocols that have been developed to address COVID-19 and support a broad range of community health concerns. This includes protocols for laundering items.

The university is also working to provide information and education to the community, to support the physical and mental health of students, faculty and staff, to destigmatize exposure and reduce barriers to testing, treatment and vaccination.

The Infectious Disease Response Team continues to meet weekly to monitor COVID-19, monkeypox and other community health concerns, to develop coordinated response protocols, and to make recommendations to senior university leaders. Information and updates will continue to be available throughout the semester.