What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox (orthopoxvirus) is a viral illness within the orthopox family of viral infections, genetically related to smallpox. It can spread between individuals through close, personal, skin-to-skin contact. Monkeypox can cause a rash which may look like blisters or firm bumps on the skin, as well as fever, swollen lymph nodes and other flu-like symptoms.1, 2 On July 23, 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General declared the global monkeypox outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).3 In the last few months, there have been thousands of monkeypox cases reported throughout the majority of U.S. states and territories, including dozens of cases in Rhode Island, leading the U.S. to declare monkeypox a public health emergency.2
In the U.S., a majority of reported cases have been in gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (MSM). However, monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection and is not an infection that only affects gay, bisexual, trans or queer individuals.”5 Monkeypox is a public health issue that affects everyone and should not be allowed to become a source of stigma or shame.5
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Most people (>90%) experience a rash that resembles blisters or firm bumps on the skin.1,2 Other symptoms can include swollen lymph nodes and other flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, sore throat, cough, chills, or exhaustion.1,2
- may be located near the genitals, anus, hands, feet, chest or face
- can go through several stages including pimples, blisters, open sores and scabs
- may be painful or itchy
- can also be inside the body including the mouth, vagina, or anus.1,2
Monkeypox symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus.1,2
How is monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact.1,2 This includes direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or bodily fluids from a person with monkeypox. It can also spread by touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, towels, sex toys), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.1,2
Monkeypox can spread during intimate contact. Intimate contact includes oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) of a person with monkeypox.1,2 Hugging, massage, kissing, and prolonged face-to-face contact can also spread monkeypox.1,2 Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms begin until all sores have healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed which can take two to four weeks.1,2
How can someone lower their risk of contracting monkeypox?
Minimize prolonged intimate skin-to-skin contact during social gatherings, including parties and while clubbing. Having multiple or anonymous sex partners may increase chances for exposure to monkeypox.1,2 Limiting the number of sex partners may reduce the possibility of exposure.1,2 Talk to partners about any symptoms or recent illness. Be aware of new or unexplained rash on your or your partner(s) body(ies), including the genitals and anus.1,2
Two vaccines may be used for the prevention of monkeypox infection:
- Jynneos (Imvamune or Imvanex), approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the prevention of monkeypox virus infection
- ACAM2000, approved by FDA for use against smallpox and has been made available for use against monkeypox under an Expanded Access Investigational New Drug application.2
Preventive vaccines are currently available for confirmed exposures or high risk individuals and availability varies widely across countries including within the U.S. Eligibility, availability, and access to vaccine is rapidly changing and Health Services providers are monitoring this closely.2
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is administering the monkeypox vaccination to eligible individuals. Please visit the RIDOH page on monkeypox to view requirements for vaccine eligibility and the RIDOH website for more information on how to procure the vaccine.
What should I do if I have a new or unexplained rash or other symptoms?
- Avoid close, personal, skin-to-skin contact including intimate contact until you have been seen by a healthcare provider.
- Avoid gatherings, especially if they involve close, personal, skin-to-skin contact.
Can monkeypox be treated?
Many people infected with monkeypox have a mild self-limiting infection, do not require specific treatment, and manage symptoms as they would the flu. As noted, monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar which means that antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox can be used to prevent and treat monkeypox.2 There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox.
Tecovirimat (TPOXX) is an antiviral that may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, such as those with weakened immune systems.2 Access and availability are currently highly regulated through the CDC.
What can I expect if I get monkeypox?
Your healthcare provider will advise you regarding antiviral and supportive treatments that are right for you. You will be asked to isolate from the time your symptoms begin until all symptoms have resolved, including full healing of the rash with a formation of a fresh layer of skin.5 The duration of isolation will vary but may last two to four weeks.5 Staff should manage isolation with a leave of absence through the FMLA process. As with any illness, if faculty anticipate being absent for a week or less, or can manage their courses by teaching remotely, rescheduling classes, or relying on substitute teachers, there is no need to notify their dean’s office. For extended absences that cannot be adequately managed or for other support during an absence, faculty may contact the office of their dean, and they need not disclose the nature of their illness. It will be important for close contacts to be identified so they can be offered prophylaxis vaccine and know to monitor for symptoms. Your healthcare provider and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) will assist with this process.
What support services will be available from the University for faculty and staff who develop symptoms?
Faculty and staff who have symptoms suggestive of monkeypox will be required to isolate in accordance with CDC and RIDOH guidelines, and all employees should consult with Employee Assistance Programs and their own personal physician.
What guidance and support is being made available to students regarding monkeypox?
A comprehensive FAQ has been posted on the Health Services website with information about the virus, requirements if students develop symptoms, the preventative and response measures the University will be implementing on campus; and contact information for campus departments that have support processes in place for students. This information was conveyed to students via email and will be supplemented as the public health situation evolves.
Will Brown notify me about monkeypox cases on campus?
The university will continue to require compliance with the protocols that have been established, and will communicate any changes to COVID or Monkeypox guidance and requirements. We will only report about Monkeypox cases to the community when there is a public health rationale for doing so, such as providing information that would help people respond in ways that can help make them safer.
Will the monkeypox public health situation affect academic instruction?
The University sent a communication to the community in the first half of the academic year with guidance and FAQs on academic instruction for the Fall 2022 semester with regard to COVID-19. This same guidance should be followed for monkeypox, particularly with regard to instructional modality, handling student absences, and managing instructor absences for personal and family situations. Though the isolation period for monkeypox may be longer than COVID-19, the University is adhering to its standard policies and procedures for absences and illnesses.
What are the University’s sanitization measures?
Cleaning and sanitation of rooms, bathrooms and laundry, will be performed in alignment with CDC recommendations.6
How can I stay up to date on monkeypox-related information?
Brown’s plans are based on current public health guidance from the CDC and RIDOH. These plans will be modified as the University continues to closely monitor public health information surrounding the monkeypox virus and how it is evolving across the region and around the country. The University will continue to communicate updates to the campus community as the public health situation evolves.
Where can I find additional information on Monkeypox?
Rhode Island Department of Health: Monkeypox
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Monkeypox
Infectious Diseases Society of America- Monkeypox- What You Need to Know
World Health Organization: Monkeypox
Brown University Health Services