North Carolina reported 86 cases of the virus on Thursday, the largest daily jump and 14 more than Wednesday.
August 22 is the first day of classes for students at North Carolina State University. School leaders say they plan to offer testing and vaccinations through Campus Health Services if and when vaccines are available.
Before classes start, only a few graduate students, like Ab Gundala, are on NC State’s campus.
“We’re all here trying to get an education, just trying to be normal,” Gundala said.
As students try to navigate college during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, they know they have the added worry of monkeypox.
“To deal with, to control, a whole group of college kids is not necessarily … 30,000 kids … it’s not easy,” Gundala said.
Dr. David Weber with UNC Health said declaring monkeypox a public health emergency gives officials more power to increase vaccine production and take other actions.
“We have many advantages compared to COVID – less infectious. We have a rash, so it’s easier to diagnose. We have no shortage at the moment of diagnostic tests. We have a vaccine already approved by the FDA. We we have therapies we can use,” Weber said.
The most common spread of monkeypox, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is when people come into contact with the rash, scabs, or body fluids of monkeypox.
Weber says students should be concerned, but not panicked.
“It has to be put into the perspective of mild, self-limited disease … an uncommon disease at the moment,” Weber said. “One that requires prolonged person-to-person skin contact, so I don’t think this is going to be a serious threat even to college students, and certainly not a threat to kindergarten through twelfth graders.”
“It can be contracted through breathing, but again, it requires prolonged contact, generally more than three hours, unlike COVID, which can happen in just a few minutes.”
Rachel Roper, a professor of immunology at East Carolina University, shared the danger involved in living in cramped quarters, such as residence halls.
“Anytime you get a whole group of people together, you have the possibility of viral or bacterial transmission … group housing increases the chances of transmission if you have a bunch of people living in the same building. It’s much more likely to spread disease,” said Roper.
“In general, monkeypox is not that much of a concern for the general population. Now, there could be some outbreaks … it could change dramatically, but I think it’s unlikely.”
Students hope that institutions of learning have learned their lesson from the COVID-19 outbreak.
“If there’s another explosion, hopefully not, but if it does, I think they’re well prepared and will consistently do the right thing,” Gundala said.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said campus health is prepared to identify symptoms, test when indicated and recommend the vaccine.