Public Health Information
WPI is currently tracking public health trends related to monkeypox and has developed a protocol to guide our community should we see an outbreak on campus.
Monkeypox is a viral infection that can cause a painful rash, as well as flu-like symptoms for some individuals. This viral infection does not usually cause serious illness unless a person is immunocompromised. While monkeypox is not easily spread through the air like COVID, it is important for our community to be informed about transmission, symptoms, treatment and prevention strategies.
Below is information about monkeypox, its symptoms, treatment, and what to do if you are a close contact or suspect you have monkeypox.
Frequently Asked Questions
Symptoms and Testing
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus. It is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting two to four weeks. It is transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the monkeypox rash (or scabs) or through materials contaminated with the virus, such as clothing, bedding, towels, or surfaces.
How do I know if my rash is monkeypox?
Monkeypox rash may look like blisters or bumps on your skin, and are often painful and occasionally itchy. The CDC describes the blisters as lesions that are “firm or rubbery, well-circumscribed, deep-seated, and often develop umbilication (resembles a dot on the top of the lesion).”
- Lesions often are found on or near the genitals or anus
- May also occur on or near the mouth, face, hands, feet, or chest
- The rash may be only in one area or appear in multiple areas
- There may be one lesion or multiple lesions
A diagnosis of monkeypox is confirmed by swabbing the skin lesions and awaiting test results.
Are there other symptoms besides a rash?
Yes. Often there are flu-like symptoms that proceed the rash by one to three days but not always. Click for a detailed list of other symptoms.
What should I do if I think I have monkeypox?
- Students should call Student Health Services at 508-831-5520; employees should call their healthcare provider to discuss symptoms.
- Cover your lesions with a long-sleeved shirt/pants or use bandages to prevent spreading the virus.
- Stay home. Do not go to work, class, athletic practices/games or other activities until you have been cleared by your healthcare provider.
Is there a test for monkeypox?
Yes. Diagnosis of monkeypox is confirmed by swabbing a lesion to send off a PCR test to a local lab. Testing can be administered at Student Health Services.
Will my test results remain confidential?
The identity of individuals who are suspected or confirmed to have monkeypox and their close contacts is protected and is disclosed only on a need-to-know basis to those involved in the public health response, which may include the residence hall staff, environmental health services, student health services, public health team and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
What should I do if I test positive for monkeypox?
Employees and students with off-campus apartments should stay home. Do not go to work or class. Leave your home only for medical care.
Talk with your medical provider about whether you qualify for treatment with the antiviral medication TPOXX and whether your close contacts can get a monkeypox vaccine quickly.
The Public Health Team will provide additional information about isolation to all students who test positive. Students in residential housing are encouraged to isolate at their permanent residence if possible, or they can be moved into in a separate isolation space on campus provided by WPI.
How long does a monkeypox infection last?
Monkeypox lesions can take two to four weeks to completely heal so individuals with monkeypox will need to isolate until all sores have healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. For more information on the infectious period, click here.
Prevention, Risk, and Stigma
How can I protect myself from monkeypox?
The CDC has several recommendations to prevent the spread of monkeypox. Importantly,
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
- Wash your hands often.
Who is at risk for contracting monkeypox?
Anyone who has had close, personal, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk. As of September 2022, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men make up the majority of monkeypox cases in the US, but the trend may not continue in that direction. Anyone, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, can contract monkeypox if exposed, and people who have had multiple sex partners in the last month are at increased risk.
Some groups may also be at heightened risk for severe outcomes if they contract monkeypox, including people with weakened immune systems, young children under 8 years of age, and pregnant people.
How should we address any stigma around monkeypox?
It is important to recognize that monkeypox infects people of all genders and sexual orientations. WPI does not tolerate discrimination or disrespect of any member of our community. We strive to be an inclusive and welcoming campus and expect everyone to show kindness and care, particularly to those who need support.
Isolation and Care
Do I have to isolate if I have monkeypox?
Yes. A person is infectious until all sores have healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This can take two to four weeks. Students who are diagnosed with monkeypox are encouraged to return to their permanent residence until their lesions are fully healed. If a student is unable to return home, they will isolate in the WPI Townhouses until their lesions resolve. The public health team will directly contact the student with instructions and assistance. WPI follows the CDC recommendations for isolation.
How do you treat monkeypox?
Treatment will depend on how sick someone gets or whether they’re likely to get become severely ill because of other health issues. Talk with your medical provider about whether you qualify for treatment with the antiviral medication TPOXX and whether your close contacts can get a monkeypox vaccine quickly.
The CDC has recommendations for management of monkeypox symptoms.
How do I manage my mild symptoms?
What should I do if I have severe symptoms?
Contact your healthcare provider or Student Health Services at 508-831-5520. If you have a medical emergency, go to your local ER or if on campus call campus police at 508-831-5555 or 911 if off campus.
Do I need to wear a mask?
The CDC is recommending that people with monkeypox wear masks when in close contact with others.
How do I access classes during isolation?
For general information, check the COVID pages for information on accessing labs and classes during isolation: https://www.wpi.edu/we-are-wpi/frequently-asked-questions
Student Health Services will help you contact your Academic Advisor and, if needed, the Office of Accessibility Services about your extended absence while protecting your private health information. You and your Academic Advisor can reach out to faculty for support and guidance.
Who is a close contact?
A close contact is anyone who, since the start of your monkeypox symptoms, you have:
- had sex with, including oral, anal, or vaginal sex.
- came into direct contact with the rash on your body.
- hugged, cuddled, kissed, or had other prolonged skin-to-skin contact with.
- shared cups, utensils, towels, clothing, bedding, blankets, or other objects and materials with.
The CDC has suggestions on how to notify people exposed to monkeypox.
What should I do if I’m a close contact?
The CDC has guidelines for those exposed to monkeypox. These include:
- Watching for monkeypox symptoms for 21 days since the last exposure
- Immediately talk with your healthcare provider about getting the JYNNEOS vaccine to prevent or decrease severity of a monkeypox outbreak
- See a healthcare provider if you develop monkeypox-like symptoms
Can I get the monkeypox vaccine?
If you feel you have been exposed to monkeypox or are at significant risk of being exposed in the future, you will likely qualify for the JYNEEOS vaccine approved for monkeypox. It is important that an individual get the vaccine soon after an exposure in order to prevent or decrease the severity of a monkeypox infection. Students should contact Student Health Services at 508-831-5520 for help obtaining appointments for the vaccine, and employees should contact their primary care provider.
Review the CDC vaccine recommendations.