Monkeypox on campus not a big concern yet: Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

SOU has no “specific non-policies” for a monkeypox outbreak

A pharmaceutical vaccine against monkeypox at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital in San Francisco. [Lea Suzuki/San Francisco Chronicle via AP]

Unlike with COVID-19, Southern Oregon University officials do not currently feel the need to implement strict preventive measures to protect students against monkeypox, although health officials across the country believe that the Colleges and universities could become “hot spots” for the disease in the fall.

“There are no specific policies that have been made regarding monkey pox,” said Joe Mosley, director of community and media relations for the Ashland institution.

“But we certainly would want anyone who suspected they might be affected to be checked with health and wellness,” Mosley said, referring to the campus’ Student Health and Wellness Center building at 560 Indiana St ., Ashland.

The characteristic symptoms of monkeypox are a rash or sores that may be itchy or painful. Sometimes people may have flu-like symptoms before the rash occurs. Or the rash may appear before other symptoms, such as chills or swollen lymph nodes.

Leona O’Keefe, medical director of Jackson County Public Health, wrote in an email Friday that any prolonged skin-to-skin contact can increase the risk of spreading monkeypox.

Many public health officials are working on a campaign to destigmatize the disease, because so far most cases have been reported in men who have sex with other men. Beyond intercourse, other activities such as hugging or kissing can lead to monkeypox if one of the people is infected.

O’Keefe added that other, less common ways of spreading monkeypox are through bed linens and shared respiratory droplets.

“While we want everyone to be educated about the most common mechanisms by which the monkeypox virus spreads, it’s also important to recognize that the virus does not spread easily,” he said.

Although not a new disease, monkeypox was confirmed as an outbreak in May, with cases originating in the UK. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed more than 14,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the United States on Friday, with 116 in Oregon.

Students living together in dormitories has public health officials worried that monkeypox could spread to colleges and universities across the country.

“I’m sure that’s probably the case with any emerging virus, that a place where people are living almost on top of each other would be a hot spot,” Mosley added.

O’Keefe wrote that Jackson County Public Health is “working to reach out to SOU, RCC and other community partners.”

Sean Taggart, director of risk management at Rogue Community College, said the college is monitoring the smallpox outbreak nationwide and “will continue to communicate with local public health departments in both Josephine and Jackson counties as let the situation evolve”.

“Additional information, including prevention education, public health requirements and other resources, will be shared with the university community,” Taggart said in a prepared statement.

Some institutions, including the University of Maryland and Pennsylvania State University, have already reported presumptive or confirmed cases, and not just among the student body, but faculty as well. These institutions and others in higher education have released monkeypox prevention plans, while other schools have yet to respond.

As for SOU, Mosley noted that she is part of the university’s incident management team, which includes Anna D’Amato, executive director of SOU Health and Wellness.

“We meet, usually, every week,” Mosley said. “She has mentioned that she is keeping a very close eye on the monkey pox, but there is no reason for alarm at SOU, at this time.”

But, Mosley added, if school and health officials believe SOU is becoming a “hot spot” for monkeypox, the Ashland institution could develop more explicit and public communications about the disease.

Contact reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.

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