As fall semester for Illinois college students nears, schools around Illinois are preparing for another health threat.
Monkeypox is spreading, prompting school officials to implement plans for a possible outbreak on campus. More than 7,000 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., with nearly 800 in Illinois.
Eric Jome, director of media relations at Illinois State University, said school officials are in a “wait and see” mode.
“At this point, we’re gathering information and monitoring the situation at the state level to see where this is going,” said Jome.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of contracting monkeypox is “believed to be low.” Monkeypox is most often associated with a rash that can appear anywhere on the body including the face, hands and inside the mouth, but symptoms can also include headaches, muscle aches and fever.
The virus spreads through physical contact with the monkeypox rash, and the vast majority of people affected by the current outbreak appear to be catching it through sexual contact. That is why there are concerns being raised on college campuses.
Kim Rendfeld, a spokesperson for Southern Illinois University, said the school is advising students that the best way to protect themselves is through education.
“We are reminding students that monkeypox can affect anyone regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, and we ask our campus community to remember our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Rendfeld in a statement.
With the monkeypox virus, there is a different dynamic than with the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 is usually contagious for less than ten days, but a monkeypox infection can last for weeks. That means a student who contracts the virus may need to isolate for a significant portion of their semester.
Duane Bonifer, associate vice president of communications at Monmouth College, said the school is more prepared for another virus outbreak because of the circumstances the past two years.
“For a student, we actually have a building on campus that can still serve as a place to quarantine them because of what we went through with COVID,” said Bonifer.
Earlier this month, Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared monkeypox a public health emergency to help coordinate a statewide response.
***Courtesy of the Illinois Radio Network***