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Below are some frequently asked questions and answers surrounding monkeypox:

About Monkeypox
What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of orthopoxvirus genus of the Poxviridae family, the same family of viruses that causes smallpox. This disease is typically identified by a characteristic skin rash, which may look like a pus-filled pimple, blister, or sore.

How is it transmitted?

Monkeypox is transmitted from one person to another after prolonged exposure to an infected individual, most commonly through skin-to-skin contact: 

  • Transmission may occur via close contact with lesions or body fluids of an infected person, such as prolonged face-to-face contact or through intimate physical contact, including cuddling, kissing, or sexual activity.
  • Contact with contaminated materials such as soiled bedding and linens 
  • To humans through close contact with an infected animal, or with material contaminated with the virus.

Monkeypox is generally less contagious than many other communicable diseases, namely COVID-19 and chickenpox. As noted above, transmission also requires PROLONGED exposure. Additionally, while there has been some data that suggests respiratory droplets may be a source of transmission, this has not been identified as the source of exposure in the majority of infections thus far. 

What are the symptoms of Monkeypox?

A person with monkeypox is contagious from the onset of symptoms or first lesions through the scab stage, until a fresh layer of skin has formed. Fever and rash occur in nearly all people infected with monkeypox virus. The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms (fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, headache, cough). Others only experience a rash. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.

Symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, body aches, swollen lymph nodes
  • Painful rash that which may look like a pus-filled pimple, blister, or sore
Why is monkeypox considered a public health emergency?

A public health emergency declaration releases resources earmarked for an actual (or emerging) public health crisis. In the case of monkeypox, the federal government can now significantly scale the production and availability of vaccines, expand testing capacity, and make testing more convenient. The declaration also facilitates coordination among federal, state, and local authorities, specifically in relation to improving access to testing and treatment. Furthermore, funding is directed at coordinating (across jurisdictions) awareness and prevention outreach campaigns that target members of the at-risk communities and the public at large, aimed at curbing spread of the virus. The declaration can also help to improve the availability of data on monkeypox infections.

Testing
Can I access testing while on campus?

If you are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to an individual with monkeypox, please call Student Health and Counseling at 215-746-3535 at your earliest convenience to discuss your concerns with a medical provider. Testing is done by swabbing a lesion to confirm the presence of the monkeypox virus. Testing is available through our clinic in collaboration with LabCorp. Specimens are handled by a specialized lab and results typically take 3-4 days. 

How should I schedule an appointment for testing?

An appointment can be scheduled by calling Student Health and Counseling at 215-746-3535.

When should I get tested?

Yes. Since it was determined that your skin lesions may be suspicious for MPX, it is important to isolate in order prevent transmission until it has been determined that your skin lesions are not symptoms of MPX. Results can take 2-4 days. During this time, do not go to class, work, or social events. This is to protect those around you from exposure.

Should I isolate while I wait for my test results?

You should get tested if you have symptoms of monkeypox or have been exposed to someone with monkeypox or monkeypox symptoms.

Testing Positive
What happens if I test positive?

If you test positive, you should isolate until all symptoms have fully resolved. If you have a rash, this means you must isolate until the scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed. The length of isolation will vary and may last 21 days or more.

What does isolation entail?
  • Do not leave your home (dorm, apartment, etc.) except as required for emergencies or follow-up medical care. You cannot go to class, go to work, or attend social events.
  • Avoid close contact with others and avoid close contact with pets in the home and other animals by wearing well-fitting, high-quality mask and gloves when in close contact with others at home. 
  • Do not engage in sexual activity that involves direct physical contact.
Where should students isolate if positive?

The CDC considers college dorms to be congregate living settings in regards to monkeypox. As such, all students living in college houses are required to move to our isolation spaces until they have been cleared to return. This applies to all students living in colleges houses, whether they are waiting for a test result or have been diagnosed with MPX. 
 
Students who live off-campus must stay in their rooms and avoid contact with housemates and roommates during their isolation period. They should avoid shared spaces if at all possible, otherwise, they need to wear gloves, long sleeves and long pants when in shared spaces. Routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and items. If there is not a separate bathroom, clean and disinfect surfaces such as toilet seats, faucets, and counters using an EPA-registered disinfectant after using a shared space (such as showering, using the toilet, or changing the bandages that cover the rash. Consider disposable gloves while cleaning if the rash is present on the hands.

How will I receive meals if I am isolating?

All those in isolation should order food in or ask a friend/family member/roommate to drop off groceries or a meal. If meal delivery or pick-up by others is not possible, students may pick up to-go food while diligently masking, wearing gloves, and maintaining social distancing. It is important that students on a dining plan understand how to access their meals when they are sick or in isolation. For more information visit the Penn Dining site.

What should I do with my pet (e.g., dog, cat) if I test positive?

People with monkeypox should avoid contact with animals/pets; however, if close contact occurs, the pet should be kept at home and away from other animals and people for 21 days. Wash your hands before and after caring for them and wear a well-fitting mask and gloves while providing care for your pet. It is important to cover any skin rash to the best extent possible (e.g., long sleeves, long pants).

If you did not come in contact with your pet during your infectious period, ask another household member or friend to care for the pet until fully recovered.

Prevention and Risk Reduction
How can I reduce the risk of becoming infected with monkeypox?

You can minimize your risk of exposure by:

  • Avoiding skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a rash or other monkeypox symptoms 
  • Not sharing bedding, towels, clothing, utensils, or cups with a person with monkeypox
  • Not sharing vape pens or e-cigarettes
  • Washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Wearing a well-fitting, high-quality mask and gloves when caring for someone who has monkeypox or has symptoms of monkeypox.
  • Asking sexual partners whether they have a rash or other symptoms of monkeypox.

Monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, but is often transmitted through prolonged, close physical contact, which can include sexual contact. If you’re sexually active, learn about how you can lower your risk during sex.

Do I need to clean my house or apartment after my housemate or roommate has been diagnosed with monkeypox? 

The good news is that surface transmission of monkeypox, while possible, is extremely rare. Out of an abundance of caution, it would be a good idea to clean shared spaces. While cleaning, we recommend you wear disposable medical gloves and a respirator or well-fitting mask. Gather contaminated clothing and linens before anything else in the room is cleaned. Do not shake the linens. Wash all laundry in a standard washing machine with detergent. Carefully clean shared spaces like bathroom(s), kitchen; disinfect commonly touched surfaces (e.g. tables, countertops, door handles, toilet flush handles, faucets, floors, etc.) using an EPA registered disinfectant (e.g. Clorox, Lysol, or arm & hammer essentials disinfecting wipes). Wash soiled dishes and eating utensils in a dishwasher with detergent and hot water or by hand with hot water and dish soap. You can find more information on disinfection on the CDC’s website.

I received an exposure notification from Wellness’s Public Health and Wellbeing team, now what?

Your notification message will contain detailed instructions. Carefully read and follow the full details of the instructions that you have received. Now for the good news: for monkeypox, there is no quarantine requirement for exposed contacts. Monitor for symptoms (rash, fever, fatigue, body aches, swollen lymph nodes) for 21 days. If you develop symptoms, isolate immediately and call Student Health and Counseling (215-746-3535) to speak to a medical provider. You may be eligible for vaccination, please contact the Philadelphia Department of Health at 215-685-5488 to find out if you are. All of this information will be detailed in the exposure notification you receive through the Wellness Portal.

My roommate tested positive for monkeypox, what should I do?

The first thing to remember is that transmission of monkeypox requires prolonged exposure and skin to skin contact. Out of an abundance of caution, it would be a good idea to clean and disinfect shared spaces commonly touched surfaces. While cleaning, we recommend you wear disposable medical gloves and a respirator or well-fitting mask. There is no quarantine requirement for exposed contacts, and you may continue your routine activities. Pay attention to how you feel and if you develop symptoms, isolate immediately and call Student Health and Counseling (215-746-3535) to speak with a medical provider. You may be eligible for vaccination, please contact the Philadelphia Department of Health at 215-685-5488 to find out if you are.

Why are the monkeypox isolation requirements ambiguous and not a set number of days, like with COVID-19?

Monkeypox is much less transmissible than COVID-19. However, unlike COVID-19, a person with monkeypox is contagious from the onset of symptoms until a fresh layer of skin has formed, which could last 2-4 weeks. Because the amount of time it can take for the new layer of skin to form varies from person to person, there is no set number of days of isolation, but rather the days are based on clinical presentation.

Where do I isolate?

The CDC considers college dorms to be congregate living settings in regards to monkeypox. As such, all students living in college houses are required to move to our isolation spaces until they have been cleared to return. This applies to all students living in colleges houses, whether they are waiting for a test result or have been diagnosed with MPX. 
 
Students who live off-campus must stay in their rooms and avoid contact with housemates and roommates during their isolation period. They should avoid shared spaces if at all possible, otherwise, they need to wear gloves, long sleeves and long pants when in shared spaces. Routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and items. If there is not a separate bathroom, clean and disinfect surfaces such as toilet seats, faucets, and counters using an EPA-registered disinfectant after using a shared space (such as showering, using the toilet, or changing the bandages that cover the rash. Consider disposable gloves while cleaning if the rash is present on the hands.

Vaccination and Treatment
Are vaccines available?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the JYNNEOS Smallpox vaccine to prevent monkeypox. Wellness continues to work with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) on access to vaccines and treatments. Vaccine supplies are currently limited and PDPH is prioritizing vaccines based on a stratified risk of infection. We expect access to improve as supply increases.

To find out if you are eligible for the vaccine, please contact the Philadelphia Department of Public Health at 215-685-5488.

What treatment is available for monkeypox?

Treatment involves supportive care to alleviate the symptoms. Antivirals such as tecovirimat (TPOXX) may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, for example, immunocompromised students or depending on lesion location/type.

Resources

Our Public Health and Wellbeing team works closely with University partners and the following public organizations to prevent and respond to communicable disease cases and outbreaks on campus. Visit their sites for more information: