ALLENDALE, Mich. — Health officials at Grand Valley State University are keeping a close eye on the slow spread of monkeypox. As students return to campus to begin their fall semester, Edward Jones, the director of Student Health Services, wants them to be educated about it.
“We’re following [and] continuing to monitor CDC guidelines and we’ll continue to get guidance from our local health department as well,” Jones said during a Zoom interview with FOX 17 Friday afternoon. “So, yes it’s very much on our radar.”
Dr. Annette Mercatante with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said monkeypox is in the family of small pox. It originated overseas and has been found in the United States over the last few months.
According to the state, as of Thursday, August 25, Ottawa County, where GVSU is located, has only had five confirmed cases and the city of Detroit has has 48.
“It’s been a little over 100 cases reported in Michigan,” Dr. Mercatante told FOX 17. “It is spread by skin-to-skin contact or very prolonged respiratory contact with somebody who’s infected. But, it’s not on the level of COVID right, where you’re just near somebody, walking by somebody, and you get infected.”
Dr. Mercatante specified that it can be transmitted sexually. However, that’s because of the close contact.
“It really is when the rash is there and people are touching it, so close dancing for instance right,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be intimate contact.”
Her best piece of advice for students is to be aware of the virus and to practice good hygiene by washing your hands and clothes, along with disinfecting items and surfaces.
She said the virus can spread on surfaces.
“As far as the EPA is concerned, it’s a Tier 1 so it’s like the easiest to inactivate,” Jones said. “We’re asking our students, maybe telling them, to look for the EPA number on your cleaning supplies.”
And if they don’t have any supplies, GVSU will provide them, he said.
“Right now, I think the most important thing is prevention,” Jones said. “So, that’s probably like your hand-washing, making sure that if you’re not feeling well stay home. If you do have symptoms or signs or things like that then call your healthcare provider.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms include fever, chills, aches, exhaustion and in some cases the rash which can look like blisters.
If you get monkeypox it’s best to quarantine, the state said.
“We just want you to be aware about the 21 days that the incubation period is,” Dr. Mercatante said. “Just to keep an eye on things like illnesses developing or rashes developing. And if that would happen, seek assistance through your healthcare provider to get a definitive diagnosis.”
Dr. Mercatante said a vaccine has been developed but there’s limited supply.
However, if a student should be diagnosed, GVSU will be ready to help that person beat it.
“We have a whole lot of systems in place where people can quarantine, where they can still have access to food and other essentials,” Jones said. “So, we have a solid system and game plan down just in the event that something like that does happen.”