Tulane urges monkeypox caution

Layla Reese, Contributing Reporter

As monkeypox spreads, Tulane is urging caution among students. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

President Joe Biden’s declaration of a monkeypox public health emergency and national vaccine shortage are among the causes for virus concerns at Tulane University. 

Tulane Campus Health sent out a message on Tuesday regarding the virus and said the majority of the state’s monkeypox cases are in the New Orleans metro area. As of Aug. 31, there are 183 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Louisiana with 34% of the cases among 18-29 year olds. 

Susan Hassig, an epidemiologist at Tulane, said college students are at a “potentially high risk” for the monkeypox virus, and it is important for anyone “engaging in intimate contact” to assess their body for any lesions before touching someone. 

Hassig said mortality rates are not a concern with monkeypox, although the lesions can be painful and lead to scarring. She encouraged the students to do a “skin check” before engaging in “close, intimate contact with someone else.”

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, monkeypox is spread through “close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact.” The CDC stated that men who have sex with men make up the majority of the cases currently.

Similar to COVID-19, self-isolation is recommended for individuals who have monkeypox. The CDC has provided information on how to prevent getting the monkeypox virus which includes refraining from touching others who appear to have rashes similar to monkeypox symptoms and washing your hands regularly.

Hassig said there is a small component of airborne transition that may function in the virus, and it is possible for monkeypox to spread through the respiratory tract.

“Masks wouldn’t hurt, and COVID is still out there,” Hassig said. 

According to Dr. Jennifer Avegno, director at the New Orleans Health Department, “the highest risk is among men who have sex with men with multiple partners, particularly multiple anonymous partners.”

But “most of the activities you’re going to do coming back to college, going to football games and parties and all that are going to be relatively low risk,” Avegno said.  

She encouraged students to get vaccinated and said that the New Orleans Health Department will provide free vaccinations for both COVID-19 and monkeypox during the Southern Decadence festival. 

There are no confirmed cases of the monkeypox virus on campus. Tulane University Campus Health has created a monkeypox reporting form for those who are suspected of having the virus. Campus health has also sent out a message regarding the monkeypox virus, stating that their “top priority is protecting the health of the members of our university community and our neighbors.”

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