As school year begins, CT colleges at risk for monkeypox, experts say

“College campuses are a very communal environment,” said Passalacqua, an infectious disease specialist at St. Vincent’s in Bridgeport, who has a private practice in Fairfield.

As monkeypox cases are on the rise across the country, including 69 in Connecticut on Wednesday, there are concerns what a return to college dorms could mean for continued spread.

At a Wednesday meeting of the state legislature’s public health committee, Sen. Saud Anwar, D-Hartford, questioned officials from the state’s public health department about possible transmission in college dormitories. .

“Very soon, many children from our state will go to various colleges, and many children from other states will come to our state for their education,” he said. “Are we anticipating a bigger disaster and a worsening of the spread and what can we do now, especially since we have limited options or a limited number of vaccines available?

Acting State Epidemiologist Lynn Sosa responded that DPH has coordinated with several colleges in the state on protocols, specifically to ensure they “have a testing plan.”

“We have already asked several colleges to contact us to make sure they know how to refer their students who may be eligible for the vaccine and to make sure they are aware of this process, as well as the testing process,” he said. she declared.

Monkeypox is not COVID — the virus probably won’t “spread in a room the way COVID would,” Passalacqua said — but it could spread easily in closely related living situations.

“It can definitely be spread through close, face-to-face contact, or on common items like bedding, like towels, like a water bottle that might be shared between athletic teammates,” she said.

Of the 12,689 confirmed cases of monkeypox reported to date by the CDC, some have been found on five college campuses across the United States, according to STAT News: Georgetown University in Washington, George Washington University, the University of Texas at Austin , Bucknell University and West Chester University.

The biggest issue for colleges, Passalacqua said, is recovery time. While it can take 10 days to recover enough from a COVID infection to not pass the infection on, the time is much longer with monkeypox.

“It can take up to three to four weeks to fully recover and for the rash to heal enough that a student isn’t contagious to others,” she said.

That means colleges will have to reserve space, Passalacqua said.

“It will be important for colleges and universities to have a place where a sick student can go,” she said. “Colleges and universities will need to have a place for a young person who could get sick, and they will need to educate their healthy students on how to manage a sick student and also on access to a preventive vaccine if we have someone. which was exposed. ”

The monkeypox vaccine, Jynneos, has until now been in short supply. Of the 6,298 doses awarded to Connecticut so far, about half (3,628 doses) have been shipped to the state, according to the FDA.

Most if not all of these have been given to men with male partners, who have been most at risk so far. Passalacqua warned that could easily change.

“We have to accept the fact that viruses don’t discriminate,” she said. “Although this virus is currently limited to a small portion of the population, men who have male partners, the virus does not discriminate and can be transmitted to anyone.”

Colleges, “where the virus has the opportunity to spread,” Passalacqua said, could be particularly at risk.

“We shouldn’t push this under the rug,” she said. “We need to educate our young people.

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