In May 2022, the first cases of monkeypox were confirmed in the United States. Since then, there have been almost 12,000 additional cases reported nationwide, with California having the second most cases, accounting for 1,945 of the total cases.
Recently, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, has declared monkeypox a public health emergency. Here at UC Berkeley, University Health Services, or UHS, spokespeople reported that it has already treated a few positive individuals and that campus is striving to provide monkeypox vaccines.
While the current situation may seem bleak, especially with this viral disease being introduced in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, clinical professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, John Swartzberg, said the risk of contracting monkeypox is low, especially if we take proper precautions.
As the academic year approaches, we should all be aware of monkeypox and play our parts as members of the community to prevent further transmission.
According to UHS, the monkeypox virus thrives in dark, cool and low humidity environments but can also be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, sexual contact, respiratory secretions and sharing surfaces used by positive individuals. While monkeypox cases have been overrepresented among men who have sex with men, or MSM, disease specialists emphasize that anyone can contract it, not just MSM.
This means that the best ways of avoiding contraction of the disease is by being aware of sores or rashes on both yourself and those around you who you may expect to have bodily contact with.
Additionally, everyone should wash their hands frequently and wear appropriate personal protective equipment such as gloves and long sleeves whenever possible. Protective habits that began with the COVID-19 pandemic, such as masking, should continue as well.
Monkeypox vaccines are incredibly limited throughout the country right now, making them inaccessible to most students through UHS. Students who have been identified as close contacts or have high epidemiological risks, however, qualify for vaccination. Those who qualify should book vaccine appointments available through a UHS clinician at this time or through eTang in the near future. In the next month, there should be an expected increase in stock, and at that time, the requirements for qualification may change.
In order to avoid making public health matters worse, each of us must play a role in protecting both ourselves and those around us. If you have further questions or concerns about monkeypox, please don’t hesitate to consult healthcare professionals or trusted online resources, such as the UHS website. It is only by working collectively — as students and as municipal leaders of the Berkeley community — that we can overcome these national public health crises.