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US Colleges Lack Supplies to Prevent Monkeypox Outbreaks

Schools look to rely on education as students’ fall return to campus looms

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This just in from Bloomberg: Universities in the hardest-hit US states may be hampered in their efforts to prevent a spread of monkeypox later this year due to a lack of vaccines and diagnostic tools.

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As they get ready for the fall semester, school health administrators across the country are relying heavily on educational measures to ensure the health and safety of their students. Some schools have health centers where students can get tested, but no mandates have been found requiring students to do so.

Although the majority of the monkeypox cases have been reported in men who have sex with other men, anyone who comes into contact with infectious lesions is at risk for infection. Drug-resistant MRSA bacteria, for example, have been linked to the spread on college campuses, where contact sports, shared showers, and sexual activity are common, according to Jay Varma, director of the Weill Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response.

If a case of monkeypox emerges on a campus, “we can expect to see it spread rapidly in gyms and sports teams from skin to skin, especially wrestling,” as Varma put it. As a result of the common knowledge that college students engage in sexual activity, it has been suggested that educational institutions may be at greater risk.

The Biden administration currently has a stockpile of 441,000 vaccines and has approved a dose-sparing technique called intradermal administration, which is expected to increase the stockpile to about 2.2 million doses. In order to provide high-risk individuals with some protection, some states are only administering one of a standard two-shot series. Epidemiologist Katrine Wallace from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health stated that schools lacked the resources necessary to implement effective preventative measures due to a lack of vaccines and diagnostic testing.

Health officials announced on Tuesday that all men who have sex with other men in Denmark will be eligible for the monkeypox vaccine. Bavarian Nordic A/S is headquartered in Denmark. Until recently, only those who had been potentially exposed were able to get the vaccine.

According to the CDC, there are 31,800 confirmed cases worldwide as of August 9. Ten thousand three hundred and ninety-two cases have been confirmed, making this the largest outbreak in the United States. Medical centers at Columbia and Cornell universities in New York City offer diagnostic testing for patients showing symptoms, but neither institution provides vaccines.

The University of Florida plans to educate students on disease and outbreak prevention even without vaccines, according to a university spokesperson. More than 124,000 students at Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin depend on standardized tests and classroom instruction.

Student Health Services Director at Texas A&M University Martha Dannenbaum emailed, “We have testing supplies and the process/protocol is in place.” We’ll do what we can to stock up on vaccine when it becomes more widely available. When all resources are readily available, response efforts are at their best.

Last week, in addition to New York, the outbreak of monkeypox was declared an emergency in the states of California and Illinois. More than 56,000 students attend the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and the campus health center there, as well as the health center at the University of Southern California. Infected students at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois must leave campus and live in isolation.

A spokesperson for the American College Health Association, Rachel Mack, said that the organization is still working on developing recommendations for colleges regarding the disease. Supporting infected students who may be isolated for weeks and reaching out to high-risk populations without stigmatizing them are crucial, she said. Vaccines are “currently only available through them,” she said, so the committee is also considering recommendations on campus partnerships with state and local health departments.

According to Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois, colleges will also need to deal with the threat of disinformation that has complicated the response to Covid from the very beginning in 2020.

Wallace stressed the importance of students “getting on top of it right away” as the new school year began. Students “may not be aware that they are at risk” because “they may think it’s just something that happens to gay people and they don’t know of any cases in their area.”

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