Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro
There have been dozens of cases of orthopoxvirus, otherwise known as monkeypox, diagnosed here in Rhode Island, but there is no need for major panic. It was declared a national public health emergency in the United States on Aug. 4, however, monkeypox is not expected to have as detrimental of an effect as COVID.
Recently, Marie Wilks, the director of the Center for Health and Wellness, sent an advisory email to all students, faculty and staff regarding monkeypox and Rhode Island College’s response to it.
According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox is a virus transmissible to humans from animals that is similar to smallpox, though far less severe. The virus can cause any number of symptoms, including rashes, fever, swollen lymph nodes, chills and numerous other flu-like symptoms.
If there is a potential for exposure, or if you experience any symptoms, it’s important for you to contact your primary doctor. If you are living on campus or do not have a primary doctor, please contact health services at (401) 456-8055 for an appointment. During this appointment, you can expect testing to be conducted, as well as a skin check. You may be asked to isolate afterwards until the test results come back.
Monkeypox transmission, though low among the wider state community, seems to occur predominantly during direct skin-to-skin contact, which includes intimate contact. What is not known at this time is if the virus itself is present in bodily fluids and if immunocompromised people would have more of the virus in their system or not. It is also unknown presently how, and if, monkeypox can be spread via respiratory secretions. It is known that brief interactions and being in close proximity with others for long periods of time, such as on a plane or in a car, will not spread the virus.
If you do become positive, don’t worry. It is rare to pass away from monkeypox. It is suggested, however, to remain in isolation until all symptoms have resolved, which can take from two to four weeks approximately. Not only should you isolate yourself from other humans, but animals as well, since this virus can be passed from people to animals. If you must break isolation for any reason, make sure that any rashes are completely covered with whatever material is appropriate for the location of the rash: gauze and tape, gloves, etc., and be sure to wear a mask. It goes without saying that you should avoid any close physical contact, but this also means not sharing cups or utensils with anyone else, as well as disinfecting all items you use, including laundry and bed linens. Lastly, wash your hands.
In the event of a positive test, students will need to reach out to Health Services to discuss isolation periods, missed classes, etc. Health Services will then need to communicate and share limited information with the dean of students in order to help you academically. Faculty and staff do not need to report a positive test to Human Resources, but should manage their isolation by requesting sick leave and/or using FMLA leave through the Office of Human Resources.
RIC is using the same protocols for monkeypox as they are for COVID in regards to absences and potential class cancellations and changes.
The state of Rhode Island currently has a limited supply of vaccines available, but is expected to get more. Vaccines are available to those who qualify. In order to qualify, you must have been identified by state investigation as someone who has had close contact with someone who has the virus, be 18 and identify as LGBTQ, have had intercourse with a LQBTQ person, be currently taking a pre-exposure prophylaxis medication to prevent HIV, a commercial sex worker or someone who works in a public sex venue, a worker who handles monkeypox specimen, or a healthcare worker with confirmed or suspected exposure — including healthcare workers who are assisted in the vaccination process.
Those who fit the above criteria, are urged to get vaccinated. There is a vaccination clinic that will be held here at RIC on Oct. 14 in Alger Hall from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Pre-registration is required. There are other clinics available, which can be viewed using this link that contains a spreadsheet with clinic and registration information. Please note that this, and the other clinics listed on the spreadsheet, is a state sponsored vaccination clinic, so there is no cost associated with this. If you call your provider for a vaccination, they will be able to accommodate, however you and/or your health insurance company may receive a bill.