What is monkeypox? 

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that has not often been seen in the United States. It can cause a rash that looks like bumps, blisters, or ulcers. Some people have flu-like illness before the rash develops. Most people recover in two to four weeks, but the disease can be serious, especially for children and people who are immune compromised or pregnant.

How can monkeypox spread? 

Monkeypox spreads through contact with:

  • Monkeypox rash, sores or scabs.
  • Objects, fabrics or surfaces a person with monkeypox used.
  • Respiratory droplets or oral fluids from a person with monkeypox.

Monkeypox can spread as soon as symptoms start until all sores heal and a fresh layer of skin forms. This can be several weeks.

What are the signs and symptoms of monkeypox? 

  • Symptoms of monkeypox can include:
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
  • A rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) but could also 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 look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.

You may experience all or only a few symptoms

  • Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
  • Most people with monkeypox will get a rash.
  • Some people have developed a rash before (or without) other symptoms.

Can I get vaccinated for monkeypox? 

The CDC currently recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and people who may be more likely to get monkeypox. 

People more likely to get monkeypox include:

  • People who have been identified by public health officials as a contact of someone with monkeypox
  • People who are aware that one of their sexual partners in the past 2 weeks has been diagnosed with monkeypox
  • People who had multiple sexual partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with known monkeypox
  • People whose jobs may expose them to orthopoxviruses, such as:
    • Laboratory workers who perform testing for orthopoxviruses
    • Laboratory workers who handle cultures or animals with orthopoxviruses
    • Some designated healthcare or public health workers

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) has a limited amount of monkeypox vaccine available in Pierce County for high and intermediate risk close contacts. They will notify you if you are eligible and help you find a dose.

TPCHD expects to get more vaccines and hopes to expand eligibility to at-risk populations soon. They are coordinating distribution of vaccines with pharmacies and providers. 

Monkeypox Campus Information 

How can I get tested for monkeypox on campus? 

If you are a student experiencing symptoms of monkeypox, (symptoms include muscle aches or backache, swollen lymph nodes, and any rash located on or near the genitals or anus or on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth) CHWS healthcare providers can test for monkeypox. At this time, there is no FDA-approved screening test for monkeypox. This means that you can only be tested if you have a rash or lesions. After testing, results can take a few days. While you wait for results, you should continue to isolate yourself from others. You don’t need to visit the emergency room unless you’re seriously ill. CHWS providers can provide guidance on symptom management and isolation protocols. To make an appointment at CHWS, call 253.879.1555. 

I’m worried about coming to campus. What is my risk of getting monkeypox as a college student?

It is important to note that although the emergence of another viral disease is worrisome, monkeypox transmission is preventable, and there are already FDA-approved testing protocols and a vaccine in place. 

Available data shows that the majority of infections are due to prolonged, physical, skin-to-skin and/or intimate contact with someone who has monkeypox. The presence of the monkeypox virus on a surface does not automatically cause someone to become infected with monkeypox. A relatively high dose of the virus is necessary to cause an infection. For example, briefly touching a door handle would probably not cause an infection because the exposure to the virus is brief and the amount of virus present on a doorknob is small; however, spending several hours in a bedroom, bed, and having close physical contact with someone who has monkeypox would more likely result in an infection. 
Being in close contact with others and living in congregate settings may increase risk, but there are steps you can take to mitigate this risk. Make informed choices when you are in situations or places where monkeypox could be spread.  

In reference to CDC prevention guidance, the following precautions are highlighted for college students: 

  • Be aware of the signs and symptoms of monkeypox infection. Schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider for testing if you are experiencing symptoms. 
  • Abstain from kissing, skin-to-skin contact including intimate/sexual activity, and isolate away from others if you are feeling unwell and/or having symptoms of monkeypox.
  • Practice safe and consensual sex and sexual/intimate activities. Communicate with your partner, and do not engage in physical contact if you or your partner have any new or unexplained rashes, or if either of you have been exposed to monkeypox. Utilize CDC guidance for safer sex and gatherings.
  • Wear shower shoes in shared bathroom spaces.
  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid sharing towels, bedding, and clothing with others.
  • Avoid sharing drinks, utensils, straws, pipes, bongs, vapes, etc.
  • Practice good cough etiquette. Wear a mask around others.

How will close contacts be identified and contacted? 

In the event of a positive case of monkeypox on campus, CHWS and the TPCHD will collaborate to perform contact tracing. Close contacts will then be notified by phone and provided with guidance regarding next steps. 

Where can I find more information about monkeypox? 

The CDC website has the most up-to-date information about monkeypox. You can also refer to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department website, and the Washington Department of Health website for local information.