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Monkeypox Awareness and Precautions

August 24, 2022

To: All Students
From: Michele Rasmussen, Dean of Students in the University, and Dr. Richard McDonough, Senior Medical Director for Student Health, UChicago Student Wellness
Subject: Monkeypox Awareness and Precautions
Date: August 24, 2022

In recent weeks the growing number of monkeypox cases nationwide has led to the declaration of public health emergencies at the state and national level. We write to share the measures the University is taking to help limit the spread of monkeypox in the UChicago community.

Monkeypox is a rare disease that has been known for decades, but in 2022 it has spread to infect around 16,000 people in the U.S. to date. The disease is rarely fatal, and it typically spreads through close, skin to skin contact with uncovered lesions on someone who has monkeypox. Symptoms can be painful, often including a rash that may go through several stages before healing; full recovery may take 2-4 weeks.

Routine casual contact with someone who has monkeypox (including shaking hands or sitting nearby) carries a low risk of infection. For more information on monkeypox and the University’s response, please visit the new UChicago Forward monkeypox FAQ. Please visit UChicago Medicine’s website for additional information on monkeypox.

The University’s steps to address monkeypox among the UChicago community will include:

Testing: Currently, only individuals with potential monkeypox rash lesions are eligible for monkeypox testing through UChicago Medicine. Students with symptoms of monkeypox or concerns about exposure are encouraged to contact UChicago Student Wellness, which can advise on testing and treatment options. Anyone seeking testing should call ahead to schedule; you should not go to an emergency department for the purpose of getting tested for the monkeypox virus (MPV) unless you are so ill that you require emergency room treatment.

Isolation: Students living on campus who are infected with MPV will be provided isolation housing in the Stony Island Residence Hall. Those who test positive and are living off-campus are advised to isolate in their residences.

Contact Tracing: The University’s contact tracing team, which has helped limit the spread of COVID-19, will conduct contact tracing for monkeypox cases. We expect this effort will initially focus on students living in congregate settings (such as residence halls or shared apartments) where their roommates or other close contacts may have elevated risk. Contacts with low and intermediate risk will be asked to self-monitor for symptoms; those with higher risk may be eligible for post-exposure vaccination to help prevent monkeypox. Cooperation with contact tracing can go a long way to helping prevent spread of monkeypox on campus. 

Case Reporting: We ask that anyone at the University who is diagnosed with monkeypox promptly contact their healthcare provider and confidentially inform University contact tracers by emailing mpvreport@uchicago.edu

Vaccination: An MPV vaccine is available in limited supplies. According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, close contacts of people with monkeypox will be prioritized for vaccination. The vaccine is not currently recommended for the general public but some individuals who are at higher risk may qualify. The CDPH recommends vaccination for sexually active gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, and transgender persons. UChicago Student Wellness does not currently have vaccine available but there are local clinics and vaccine drives nearby that can provide vaccine.  The Chicago Department of Public Health maintains an up-to-date site with information on vaccine sites.  Eligibility may change over time as more vaccine becomes available.

Although the virus is currently circulating the most in communities of men who have sex with men, anyone can be affected by monkeypox and it can be transmitted by non-sexual contact. Campus and Student Life offices are available to offer support and will be engaging in outreach to ensure that members of our community stay informed on prevention, testing, and treatment. Please visit our FAQ page for more information.

Thank you for your help as we work to anticipate and limit the impact of this disease at the University and in our community.

UChicagoSocial: UChicago Student Wellness