As students, faculty, and staff return to campus for the fall 2022 quarter, we contend with a now-familiar challenge: Keeping a once-unfamiliar virus in check. This fall, that virus is MPXV, commonly referred to as “monkeypox.” MPXV is a rare viral infection that often includes flu-like symptoms and painful blisters that can appear anywhere on the body.
Context can equip members of the campus community to frame their exposure risk and the precautions they take. COVID-19 serves as a useful comparison. COVID-19 is a potentially fatal airborne disease, whereas MPXV is rarely fatal and transmitted mostly through skin-to-skin contact with someone who is infected with the virus. The symptoms of MPXV are also different than COVID and include rashes and sores. MPXV was first identified more than 60 years ago, so the medical community has a good understanding of MPXV’s means of spreading, as well as its symptoms and treatment.
With its potential for an outbreak on a densely-populated residential campus, UC Riverside is taking precautionary steps and modeling out an appropriate community of care:
• If a student contracts a communicable disease, including MPXV, they should contact Student Health Services for medical guidance and referral to the appropriate academic support services. Since MPVX is transmitted mostly through skin-to-skin contact, fellow students and instructors will not be notified.
• If a faculty member requires a prolonged absence because of illness, including MPXV, they should work with the Academic Personnel Office and their department chair, per the Academic Personnel Manual. There will be no notifications to work colleagues or students.
• If a staff member requires a prolonged absence because of illness, including MPXV, they should work with their supervisor and HR. Again, there will be no notifications to work colleagues or students.
Regardless of their place in our campus community, any person infected with MPXV will be expected to isolate until they are medically cleared. By the same token, with the very low risk to the general campus community, infections should not disrupt our general educational and operational mission.
The Riverside County Department of Public Health is targeting early October to offer the MPXV vaccine to the UCR campus and surrounding community. Follow the Student Health Services site for updates on the vaccine’s on-campus availability. In the interim, the county health department has established several sites in the community where vaccinations are available. For a list of those sites, along with a list of the county’s vaccination priorities, visit https://www.rivcoph.org/mpx/Vaccine-Locations.
An MPXV FAQ is available on UCR’s Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) website, along with other MPXV resources.
The vaccine will be available to anyone in the campus community who feels they are at high risk of infection. When assessing risk, consider the most MPXV infection data from the California Department of Public Health:
· 4,753 MPX cases in California
· 255 cases in Riverside County
· 95%, no hospitalization
· 70% between 25-44
· 43% Hispanic; 34% white
· 97% are men
· 83% are men who have sex with men (MSM); 10.5% are bisexual; 6% are heterosexual
While MPXV is a serious public health threat, we encourage members of the UCR community to learn about the virus and follow the guidance of public health officials, including risk reduction and vaccination when appropriate. EH&S staff are monitoring the situation and will provide updates as necessary.