Monkeypox Briefing: Information to Guide Discussions with Students

Read this guide prepared by Health Educator, Karly Beavers, for information on Monkeypox and campus resources to recommend to students if needed.

Monkeypox Briefing: Information to Guide Discussions with Students

Health & Wellness Education, Center for Health & Wellness

How is it spread?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection from the Monkeypox virus, and is spread through skin to skin contact with sores, scabs, bodily fluids and respiratory droplets. It can also be spread by touching materials used by a person with the virus that haven’t been cleaned, such as bedding and clothing.  

Monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted infection, though many cases have been transmitted sexually. Anyone can get monkeypox.

Most common symptoms: 

  • A rash (can look like pimples, blisters, lesions or sores)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Exhaustion
  • Swollen lymph nodes

How can I help reduce stigma with Monkeypox? 

Stigma can discourage people from seeking medical attention or make them more likely to hide symptoms or illness. While Monkeypox is currently disproportionately affecting men who have sex with men, anyone – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity – can be susceptible to the Monkeypox virus. To reduce stigma, stay focused on evidence-based facts about the virus (listed on this sheet) and correct misinformation or negative language about how the virus spreads. 

Harm reduction strategies to reduce risk:

  • Avoid gatherings involving prolonged skin-to-skin contact with others
  • Wear a mask
  • Utilize proper hand hygiene by washing your hands and using hand sanitizer
  • Monitor your health – stay home if you aren’t feeling well
  • Avoid sharing clothing or bedding with others

What if someone thinks they have Monkeypox, or has been exposed?

Students can contact Health Services at 802-443-3290 if they have concerns about symptoms, a potential exposure, or want to know more about PrEP for Monkeypox. 

How can I respond to a concerned student? 

Respond with empathy while staying focused on the facts. Here are some examples of talking points you can use. 

“I’m too afraid to talk to my classmates. I heard Monkeypox is spread through respiratory droplets.” 

Example answer: It is true that Monkeypox can be spread through respiratory droplets, but that’s typically going to be with close face-to-face contact for long periods of time. A quick hello to your peers isn’t a big risk. If you’re still worried, let’s find a mask that you can wear. 

“I have a bump and I can’t tell if it’s an ingrown hair, a zit, or Monkeypox and I’m freaking out!”

Example answer: Monkeypox can include symptoms of a rash that turn into lesions or bumps, but like you said, it could be lots of other things too. Call Health Services on campus or utilize TimelyCare’s telehealth option to speak to a medical professional and ease your concern.

“Oh, great. It’s the new COVID-19. Just what we need, another pandemic.” 

Example answer: I hear your sarcasm and pandemic fatigue, and I agree that we’re all pretty tired! The good news is that Monkeypox isn’t another pandemic, case trends in the U.S. remain contained. Another great thing we’ve learned from COVID-19 is all of the prevention strategies we can use by continuing to social distance, wear a mask, and wash our hands. 

Where should I direct a student who wants to know more?

The CDC website has the latest information on outbreak data, prevention strategies and treatment. The CDC website also has specific sections for reducing risk with safer sex and social gatherings, and congregate living settings such as residence halls

On campus, students can contact Health Services at 802-443-3290 or use TimelyCare’s telehealth services if they have concerns about symptoms or a potential exposure. They can also contact the Health & Wellness Education office to talk through strategies on individual risk reduction, or contact Counseling services for support related to Monkeypox or other concerns.