First presumptive cases of monkeypox identified in AU community
Risk of on campus transmission is low, officials said
American University has identified its first presumptive cases of monkeypox in the AU community, Student Health Center Director Dr. David Reitman announced in an email on Monday.
In the email to the AU community, Reitman said that the University has been coordinating its response to monkeypox with the DC Department of Health and with other universities in the area, but that the risk of monkeypox transmission on campus is low.
“Currently, the risk of monkeypox transmission on campus is very low and with proper safety precautions, there is no need for elevated concern. Monkeypox is less contagious and less likely to result in severe illness or death than COVID-19,” Reitman wrote in his email. “The possibility of becoming infected by interacting with someone with monkeypox, particularly in classroom settings and normal daily activities is low.”
On Wednesday, the White House declared monkeypox a public health emergency, as over 6,600 cases have been recorded so far in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 30,000 confirmed cases, and the World Health Organization has also declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox is a rare disease that is primarily spread through close, personal, and/or intimate contact with an individual infected with the monkeypox virus,” Reitman said. “This includes direct skin-to-skin contact with monkeypox rash or bodily fluids from an infected person.”
Reitman said the University was providing support to affected community members.
“The individuals, who live off campus, are isolating and recovering well, and we are providing support.”
Reitman said that presently, there is no need for significant concern, as it is less contagious than COVID-19, and has lower levels of contraction through daily interactions.
Although the disease is concentrated among men who have sex with men, any person can be susceptible to the disease.
“Monkeypox is transmitted by skin contact, which can include intimate contact, but it is not a sexually transmitted infection and sexual contact is not required for transmission,” Reitman said in his email. “It is critical to avoid any stigmatization or discrimination of any groups related to monkeypox.”
Currently, there is a vaccine effective at preventing monkeypox, which can as of now only be given to those meeting eligibility requirements. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration expanded its authorization for the vaccine, allowing for individuals under 18 years of age, who are at increased risk of contraction, to receive the vaccine.
For D.C. residents who meet the eligibility requirements, vaccine appointments are available for signup on the DC Department of Health’s website. Walk-up vaccination appointments are now available on a first come, first serve basis every Friday at three locations around the district. D.C. residents who are not yet eligible can also preregister for vaccine appointments. As individuals who have preregistered become available, they will receive an email invitation to make a vaccine appointment. Reitman said students experiencing symptoms should contact the Student Health Center.
The DC Department of Health defines eligibility as being a district resident 18 years of age or older and meeting one of the following requirements:
- Gay, bisexual and other men 18 and older who have sex with men and have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners in the last 14 days)
- Transgender women and nonbinary people assigned male at birth who have sex with men
- Sex workers (of any sex), staff (of any sex) at establishments where sexual activity occurs (e.g., bathhouses, saunas or sex clubs)
“The best steps you can take regarding monkeypox, COVID-19, and other health matters is to practice good health hygiene, stay home if you are not feeling well, contact your medical provider if you have symptoms, and wear a mask in appropriate settings,” Reitman said.
Editors note: This story has been updated to include eligibility requirements for the monkeypox vaccine.