NMSU faculty, staff and students received an email Sept. 23 announcing the first monkeypox case in the area. An off-campus student tested positive two weeks before the notice went out and is currently in isolation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, which is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. The most common symptom is a rash with skin sores that could be located anywhere on the body, and other symptoms can be like those of a common cold. Monkeypox can be spread though direct contact with the virus, or contact with respiratory secretions, but it’s most commonly known to be sexually transmitted. The CDC also reports that the virus typically lasts from 2-4 weeks.
Though the first case at NMSU has been announced, there seems to be little concern about the news. While some are still weary of COVID-19, it seems to be a different story with monkeypox.
Biology student Ruth Carreon says that she is not worried and feels confident in NMSU’s ability to handle a potential outbreak.
“It’s not really real until it’s here,” she said.
Carreon says that after experiencing COVID-19, she thinks students would be less reluctant to follow guidelines. She also indicated she expects NMSU would take a “harder approach” with monkeypox.
NMSU student Aileen Cortez has other opinions about monkeypox and is concerned about students who are indifferent.
“I think since it’s not taken seriously, maybe NMSU will not handle it correctly,” Cortez said. “I remember when [university officials] gave us the option to get a COVID-19 vaccine or get weekly COVID-19 tests and students did not take it seriously.”
COVID-19 project manager Jon Webster clarifies that monkeypox is not as contagious as COVID-19, nevertheless, he urges students to stay safe and healthy.
“Using condoms is recommended as protection against monkeypox and other sexually transmitted infections,” he said. “People with diagnosed monkeypox can help limit the spread by covering their skin with long sleeves and pants.”
Webster also said that even though there are no reported on-campus cases, it’s important to inform the community about the virus.
The Aggie Health and Wellness Center created a monkeypox presentation for the NMSU housing staff with frequently asked questions and answers.
Anyone experiencing symptoms is advised to isolate from pets and people. Testing is available at the Aggie Health and Wellness Center where there are isolation rooms for students awaiting test results, or for students who test positive. Those concerned about monkeypox are requested to call ahead and speak with a nurse before arriving.