Monkeypox myth busting with an expert


Alexandra Koch

Monkeypox graphic from Pixabay

As the U.S. continues to slowly recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of a long-dormant virus — monkeypox — is causing fresh global health concerns. 

Monkeypox is a rare disease from the same family of viruses as variola virus, which causes smallpox. While there have been outbreaks in the past, widespread vaccination against smallpox seemed to have stopped monkeypox until now.

Although monkeypox and smallpox share similar symptoms, including lesions, fever, respiratory symptoms and so on, patients who are diagnosed with monkeypox tend to show milder versions of these symptoms, according to the CDC. Vaccines that were designed to fight smallpox, such as the JYNNEOS vaccine, may also be effective against monkeypox.

There are no confirmed cases on campus yet, but is the virus something that the Calvin community should be worried about? Chimes sat down with Medical Director of Health Services Dr. Laura Champion to get answers.

Should the Calvin community be worried by the fact that states like New York and California are calling a state of emergency in response to the monkeypox virus?

Champion: “Kent County Health Department is working closely with Calvin and other college campuses to help decrease the stigma and raise awareness. That is the best thing we can do at this time to help patients with symptoms get help early. When I met with the medical director from KCHD last week, MPV [monkeypox] was one topic we discussed as well as testing for [sexually transmitted infections and diseases] on campus. As of Aug. 23, there were nine individuals who have been diagnosed with MPV in Kent County. Even though MPV is not considered an STI, close intimate contact with an infected partner will increase risk of getting the virus.”

What measures would be taken if Calvin students were to be infected with the MPV? 

Champion: “For the most part, MPV is spread by skin-to-skin transmission during intimate contact. MPV can be spread until the rash is fully healed and fresh skin formed. Avoiding close intimate contact with someone who is infected is key. The vaccine aims to prevent the spread among those at higher risk for contracting MPV but is not readily available at this time. It is available in limited quantities and is being offered by appointment through Kent County Health Department to those at high risk for contracting MPV. The criteria updates regularly. The most recent update in Kent County was on Aug. 12.” 

To sort out facts from misconceptions, avoid making harmful assumptions and get accurate information on the spread of the disease, Champion recommended students consult specialized and accredited zoonotic infectious disease specialists.