What students should know about monkeypox


Paul Schlowak, Reporter

After life began to feel like the pre-Covid era, cases of “monkeypox disease” were detected in the United Kingdom in May 2022.

Within two months, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.”

“Monkeypox has been around for a long time and actually there’s sporadic cases of it reported in certain countries in Africa,” UK College of Pharmacy professor Frank Romanelli said. “But the current outbreak popped up in the United States in the summer of 2022, so it was linked to some gay pride events in Europe.”

Since then, there have been thousands of monkeypox cases in the US. The virus spreads when an infected person is in close contact with another person.

One or two weeks after being exposed to the virus, infected people get a rash as well as a lesion that may be agitating and painful. After two to four weeks, the rash usually crusts and falls off, according to Romanelli.

“Unless you’ve got some kind of immune suppression … it’s just an extremely painful rash,” Romanelli said.

With a death rate of 1-3%, the virus is considered more lethal than the COVID-19 virus.

Much of the outbreak spread occurred during a gay pride event in Europe since people were in a crowded space and had close body contact and sex even though “it (the virus) is not per se a sexually transmitted infection.”, Professor Romanelli explained.

Besides body contact, the virus can also spread via beddings since people roll around it on their bare skin.

Like almost any virus, the strategy to limit the virus’s threat is to control the spread and protect vulnerable groups. Eventually, a non-replicating viral vaccine was developed against monkeypox, which requires two shots.

“It (the vaccine) is a virus that has been treated with chemicals to make it non variant, so it can’t cause the disease but it looks like the disease, so it essentially stimulates your immune system to develop immunity to monkeypox,” Romanelli said.

UK’s University Health Service offered two walk-up clinic dates on Oct. 4 and Nov. 1 where students could receive the monkeypox vaccine for free.

“We probably did about 60 injections in total between the two days,” Romanelli said.

According to Romanelli, additional walk-in clinic dates are not planned. According to him, the spread has most likely already peaked in the U.S., and some of the most vulnerable groups, like people with risky behavior or immune suppression, are already vaccinated.

He recommends that it is important that all people, not only those with immune suppression, should get vaccinated.

“If you’re completely healthy, you should probably still get vaccinated if you consider your behavior to potentially put you at risk,” Romanelli said.