MILWAUKEE — College students across Wisconsin will officially begin the fall semester in only a week or two. With that comes yet another concern about an unfamiliar disease: Monkeypox.
“Just not knowing exactly what the effects are kind of worries me,” said Ella Marks, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “I want to not be worried about it, but there’s always the possibility that it could happen and that’s always in the back of my mind.”
Multiple communities in the state have already confirmed monkeypox cases. After President Joe Biden declared monkeypox a public health emergency last week, colleges have started to monitor the spread of the virus and are working with their respective health departments to keep students safe.
In a statement to Spectrum News 1, the UW System said, “[we are] actively coordinating with our universities and sharing information that universities can use to educate incoming students and potentially access resources.”
Students have navigated many obstacles over the past two years, including COVID-19, inflation, the ever-rising cost of college and now, another new virus. Some can’t help but think about what it was like two years ago.
“With coronavirus, we went online and I’m not an online student,” said Isiah Angeles, a junior at UWM. “I’m an in-person kind of student so, I’m hoping to stay in class and not be at home in class.”
Student Marks added, “We don’t want to be in the same situation that we were with COVID.”
Brandon Hill is the COO and executive vice president of Vivent Health, headquartered in Milwaukee. He said the most important thing to do is for college communities to be prepared. He said this is not a virus to panic about, but to closely monitor.
“COVID is different than monkeypox,” he said. “It does not require the same proximity or prolonged contact with one another that monkeypox needs.”
Hill also stressed the need for increased education about what monkeypox is and how it spreads, especially on college campuses where students live and work in close proximity to one another.
“There’s a lot to be learned from COVID, but there’s a need for new messaging and for really following the science on what’s happening with monkeypox in order to create a campus-wide strategy,” Hill said. “The communal living, the shared spaces, the overall close proximity are all things that would spread any communicable diseases.”
Some colleges in Wisconsin, such as UW-Madison and Marquette University, have already dedicated pages on their website to information about monkeypox.
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UWM said they were “closely monitoring the spread of monkeypox in consultation with the Milwaukee Health Department.”
They said as the fall semester approaches, they’ll develop more protocols, which will be communicated with the UWM community similar to how they did and continue to do for COVID-19.