Dear Campus Community,
On August 4, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the ongoing spread of monkeypox virus in the United States a Public Health Emergency (PHE). As of August 9, Shelby County currently has 9 presumptive monkeypox cases. While there are no known cases of monkeypox on campus, monkeypox can affect anyone regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, and we are preparing our community for the possibility of a small number of cases on campus. The current risk of monkeypox in the general public is low, based on information available. Below, you will find information and resources regarding monkeypox, as well as information on how University of Memphis is preparing to respond in the event of cases on campus.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox is part of the same family of viruses that cause smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox might start with symptoms like the flu, with fever, low energy, swollen lymph nodes and general body aches. Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, the person can develop a rash or sores.
People with monkeypox may experience all or only a few of these symptoms. Most with monkeypox will develop the rash or sores. Two main strains of the monkeypox virus are known to exist; the milder strain is currently circulating. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.
How is monkeypox spread?
The monkeypox virus can spread from person to person through:
- direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
- respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
- touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
- pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta
What to do if you have had an exposure or symptoms
If you have had an exposure, have symptoms you are concerned about, or need to speak with someone about your risk, please reach out to your primary care provider. Most providers now can test for monkeypox through commercial laboratories. Students can schedule appointments with a provider at Student Health Center Monday-Friday through their My Patient Portal.
Is there a vaccine?
Yes. Vaccination helps to protect against monkeypox when given before or shortly after an exposure. In the United States, JYNNEOS and ACAM2000 are two monkeypox vaccines currently available via the Strategic National Stockpile. At this time, the federal government has allocated a limited number of JYNNEOS vaccine doses to Tennessee.
As of July 27th, the Tennessee Department of Health is offering JYNNEOS vaccine to:
1) Known contacts who were identified by public health via case investigation, contract tracing, and risk exposure assessments (post-exposure prophylaxis / PEP)
2) Presumed contacts who meet the following criteria (PEP++)
▪ Are aware that a sexual partner was diagnosed with monkeypox in the past 14 days
▪ Have had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days in a jurisdiction with known monkeypox outbreak
What can you do to prepare?
1) Take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.
2) Prepare to make necessary arrangements for isolation space if need to.
How is the campus preparing?
Student Health Center providers and staff have been trained in identifying monkeypox. We are educating students, faculty, and staff on monkeypox. There are limited spaces on campus for isolation, which are reserved for students who live on campus. UofM continues to work closely with the Shelby County Health Department to keep the campus prepared, informed and healthy.
We understand that news of a new infectious disease on top of the last few years of the COVID-19 pandemic can be concerning and result in feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Campus mental health resources are available through the Counseling Center and the Student Health Center. Faculty and staff may seek support through the Employee Assistance Program.
Other resources include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Tennessee Department of Health.
We will continue to communicate with the campus as we have new information to share.
Thank you and be well.