| by Mark Peluso and Barbara McCall
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,
We are writing to provide an update and share information about the human monkeypox virus (hMPXV), which the World Health Organization recently declared a public health emergency of global concern. At this time the virus presents a low risk to our campus communities, but we are closely watching developments and will continue to keep you informed.
hMPXV is part of the same family of viruses that cause smallpox, although it is more rare, causes milder symptoms, and is rarely fatal. As of August 8, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are tracking over 8,900 cases of monkeypox in the United States. Middlebury College health officials have been monitoring this situation closely since the first cases were reported in mid-May. To date, there has been one case of monkeypox reported in Vermont, but none here in Addison County, and there are more than 800 cases reported in California, including four reported in Monterey County. While there are no known cases of human monkeypox virus on our campuses, the virus can affect anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, and we are preparing our communities for the possibility of a small number of cases.
Both U.S. and state health officials expect to identify additional cases; however, monkeypox does not spread as easily as respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19 or influenza. It is transmitted by very close contact with a symptomatic person, including direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or bodily fluids and activities including kissing, hugging, massaging, cuddling, and sex. It can also be spread by touching materials used by a person with the virus that haven’t been cleaned, such as bedding and clothing.
Symptoms of human monkeypox virus:
- A new, unexplained rash that develops into hard, round, fluid- or pus-filled skin lesions
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle aches
We encourage individuals to be familiar with information about the virus, monitor their health, and avoid skin-to-skin contact with others who have a rash or skin sores. People with suspected or known exposure to someone with human monkeypox virus should talk with a healthcare provider to determine if they are eligible to receive a vaccine in their current location. At this time, the Vermont Department of Health is overseeing vaccine distribution for those who are determined to be eligible. Students on Vermont campuses can contact Health Services at 802-443-3290 if they have concerns about symptoms or a potential exposure. Employees should consult their healthcare providers. Students and employees on the Monterey campus with concerns about symptoms or a potential exposure should contact the Monterey County Department of Health at 831-755-4521.
We will provide further updates as needed via email. We understand that news of a new virus affecting global communities as we continue to manage the COVID-19 pandemic can be concerning and cause feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. All students enrolled in U.S.-based programs have access to telehealth through TimelyCare (single sign-on), and those studying at one of the Middlebury Schools Abroad have access to support through GeoBlue (unique username and password). Faculty and staff may seek support through the Employee and Family Assistance Program (password: midd).
Chief Health Officer and College Physician
Executive Director, Center for Health and Wellness