U-M updates community on monkeypox ahead of fall term

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The University of Michigan is sharing information with the campus community related to the spread and prevention of the monkeypox virus as it prepares for the start of the fall 2022 term.

U-M’s Public Health Response team has been closely monitoring the evolving situation with monkeypox — or MPV — and its potential impact on the U-M community. Robert D. Ernst, chief health officer and associate vice president of student life, said the incidence of confirmed MPV cases in the United States has been steadily climbing in recent weeks, but the risk to the general public, including Washtenaw County, remains low.

MPV is a painful and potentially serious viral illness that can be transmitted through direct, often skin-to-skin, contact with an infected person’s body fluids or MPV lesions. MPV is part of the same family of viruses as the virus that causes smallpox.

“Our team has been working very closely with local public health officials, including the Washtenaw County Health Department, to coordinate campus evaluation and management strategies,” Ernst said. “In addition to raising awareness about MPV and providing access to testing, treatment and vaccination when indicated, it’s also important to understand the ways in which MPV differs from COVID-19 and why containment strategies may differ.”

MPV is not nearly as contagious as COVID-19. Unlike COVID-19, which primarily spreads through respiratory or airborne droplets, MPV generally requires direct contact for transmission to occur. The difference in how the two are spread puts the general public at lower risk for MPV.

Clinical symptoms of MPV generally start one or two weeks after exposure. People with MPV may first develop a flu-like illness with fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes. A characteristic rash, which can appear like blisters, sores or pimples, occurs a few days later. MPV is rarely fatal, and most cases resolve on their own after two to four weeks.

Vaccine and antiviral medications are currently in very limited supply, with a focus on confirmed cases, identified close contacts and some identified priority groups. County health departments are a distribution site for each campus:

  • Ann Arbor campus: The Washtenaw County Health Department is currently the only site for distribution.
  • UM-Dearborn campus: The Wayne County Health Department is currently a distribution site.
  • UM-Flint campus: The Genesee County Health Department is currently the only county site for distribution. GCHD asks Genesee County residents who have been exposed to MPV (are a close contact) in the last 14 days to call 810-237-4538.

Preventive measures for MPV include:

  • Those exposed to someone with MPV or who have a rash they think might be MPV, should contact their health care provider as soon as possible.
  • Those with a suspicious rash should stay away from others, cover all of the lesions and wear a mask until they can see their health care provider.
  • Wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching one’s face and after using the bathroom.
  • Avoid direct, skin-to-skin contact with people who have MPV lesions or rashes that look like they may be MPV.
  • Talk to the people with whom you have come in direct contact, including intimate and sexual contact, about their general health and any other recent rashes or sores.
  • Avoid contact with any objects, fabrics or materials, such as bedding, clothing and towels, that have been in contact with an infected person.
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