Story by Kayla Walker | Contributing Writer
Monkeypox is of concern to Middle Tennessee State University’s health officials, even as they keep close tabs on Covid cases on campus.
“This virus is very different from Covid,” Student Health Medical Director Eric Clark said of monkeypox. “Covid transpired into a pandemic due to it spreading person to person by respiratory secretions. Monkeypox is different This one is close contact only and sexual contact as well, but it will spread less than Covid.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, monkeypox is a rare disease with symptoms that are similar to, but milder than smallpox. Global vaccination efforts beginning in 1967 by the World Health Organization led to eradication by 1980.
“Monkeypox is in the family of orthopoxvirus. We see little outbreaks of them every now and then, especially in West or Central Africa,” Clark said. “It’s not a gay or West African disease, it’s an infectious disease where it’s only close contact. The virus hasn’t morphed or changed any, so it couldn’t be a true pandemic.”
Clark also highlighted that most cases are seen in higher-risk individuals like people with multiple sex partners, compromised immune systems or men who have sex with men. Identifying symptoms include a rash or blister located around the face, hands, feet, chest, mouth or genital area.
“Since March, Tennessee only had 213 cases total,” said Clark. “It’s a different virus but with that being said, we still have to be cautious and mindful of it but I think our biggest thing with this one is to try to react appropriately to what we have.”
The vaccine against monkeypox has been distributed to school health departments and will be available for high-risk students. MTSU Student Health Services encourages students who are at high risk or have concerns to get checked out at the on-campus clinic.
“If students come in and they are concerned, we need to check them out thoroughly, follow CDC guidelines and if we do happen to catch a case, we’ll have to get them in for possible testing at the health department,” Clark said.
When visiting the health center, office visit fees will be covered excluding additional testing or lab exams. All examinations of monkeypox will be confidential and will be taken care of in-house or through other resources if necessary.
“We want to remind students that the health center is available for confidential evaluations,” Student Health Director Rick Chapman said. “If there are any concerns about a pimple or a rash, it’s extremely low risk that it’s monkeypox, it’s more than likely something else. The way we’ve structured our services, we cover the cost of the office visit. Come get checked out. If we can’t take care of it in the house, we’ll get them to the right resources to be sure that they get the right testing.’’
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