By Lara Campanella
As the Covid-19 chaos continues to move from a crisis to an endemic, a new and unforeseen affliction has begun to strike the globe––one that has amassed a frenzy of worry since July 2022. The monkeypox virus, an ailment characterized by blistering skin and painful aches, is the new conversation topic of the year. While the CDC confirms that monkeypox is rare and low-risk, the emergence of this new, wide-scale infection has still caused panic in a world weary after more than two years of the Covid pandemic.
Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease, meaning it is caused by germs that spread between animals and people. It was discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1958, but its origins remain a mystery. Contrary to its name, scientists theorize that monkeypox arose from rodents, later becoming isolated in monkey populations. Following this discovery, the virus has posed minimal threat to the United States; but on July 15th, the CDC confirmed a travel-associated outbreak, following a U.S. citizen’s trip to Nigeria. The next few months introduced a spate of infection around the world––hitting the US, United Kingdom, Australia, Europe and Canada. On July 23, 2022, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international scale.
As the infectious wave continues, Adelphi is taking a proactive stance to educate the campus community. On September 1, experts from Northwell Health Go-Health and Adelphi’s Health and Wellness team hosted an open webinar. The event detailed symptoms of the new contagion––including rashes, blisters, fever, fatigue and headache––while confirming the university’s plans.
In addition, K.C. Rondello, MD, a clinical associate professor in Adelphi’s College of Nursing and Public Health, who is also a renowned disaster epidemiologist, spoke with The Delphian. “Many of the robust mitigation protocols that we developed to address the Covid-19 pandemic have prepared us well to confront a case of monkeypox on campus.” He reiterated the school’s plans to practice recommendations by the CDC and state and local health departments.
Intimate skin-to-skin contact is the main “culprit” of monkeypox infection, through behaviors like hugging, kissing and sex. Dr. Rondello added, “Anyone can get monkeypox regardless of gender identity, birth sex or sex of sex partner(s).”
However, some populations are disproportionately affected ––particularly gay and bisexual communities of men who have sex with men (MSM), making up 93 percent of monkeypox patients.
This statistic alarms some queer students, who fear the rise of newfound prejudices.
“I've already seen some horrible comments being made in reaction to the news,” said sophomore Salvatore Jones. “While I think transparency and education is important with infectious diseases, I think there should have been more care in approaching these subjects to the greater public.”
Research on the virus suggests that being gay or gender-nonconforming has no bearing on one’s vulnerability to the disease; rather, the emergence began in LBGT+ communities, subsequently spreading within this population.
The monkeypox vaccine is available to certain high-risk groups, including those recently exposed through sexual contact, and MSM individuals who have engaged with multiple sexual partners within a 14-day period. Especially for Adelphi students within these parameters, Dr. Rondello advised: “Those who experience signs or symptoms consistent with monkeypox, such as characteristic rashes or lesions, should contact Adelphi Health Services for a risk assessment. If a rash is present, individuals should cover their rashes and avoid close contact with anyone. If there is fever, chills or respiratory symptoms, they should isolate in their residence hall or home.”
As executive director of University Health and Wellness, Nicole Gaudino is also working to prevent the monkeypox spread at Adelphi. She acknowledged that monkeypox “does not only affect those who are eligible for the vaccine or identified in high-risk groups,” encouraging all students to self-screen for symptoms for the health of the campus community.
Students should keep their ears open to any new safety guidelines and recommended protocols as more information comes to light.