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Austin doctor shares monkeypox insights as students start back on college campuses

Texas State and UT Austin have each had one monkeypox case. A local doctor said students should not worry about monkeypox spreading in general classroom settings.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas State University announced its first reported monkeypox case on Tuesday, and the University of Texas at Austin announced its first case back in July. 

With campuses now filled with college students again for the fall semester, an Austin doctor said monkeypox should not be a concern on campus, but students should take precautions with what they do off campus.

“We’re seeing it a lot at times after people who have had sexual or intimate contact,” said Dr. Aliza Norwood, the medical director at Vivent Health. “It's not a sexually transmitted disease, because you can get it not having sex. But, generally, we're seeing that's how it's happening.”

Norwood said college students should educate themselves, especially with everyone back at school.

“Knowing what the signs and symptoms of monkeypox are, talking to potential sexual partners about any symptoms that they might have,” said Norwood.

Both UT Austin and Texas State have monkeypox testing services at their campus health departments.

“We can only test a rash, so they actually have to have visible signs of a rash on their body,” she said.

Texas State said, in general, a student confirmed with monkeypox will need to isolate until they’re no longer contagious, which Norwood said can take between two to four weeks.

“The rashes that we've seen vary,” she said. “They can be just one little lesion or there can be many all over the body. So, you have to wait until all of those have healed over and new skin has formed and until then, isolate from other people.”

Texas State said they will disinfect the student’s dorm room and their roommates will be offered vaccines by the local health department. They said the student is expected to contact their professors about classwork during quarantine. UT Austin said they will assess decontamination needs if a UT community member tests positive.

“It is possible for clothing or bedding that was touched, for an infectious rash to transmit,” said Norwood. “Again, we're not seeing that as much. But to be totally safe, we would want somebody to isolate and have all of their clothing and bedding washed, and not circulating with other people.”

Norwood said as students are now back on campus, they should take precautions in intimate settings, but they don’t need to worry about the spread in classroom settings.

“Just knowing, you don't need to be scared about just being in general rooms with people, that it is not as contagious as COVID, that you really do have to have that fever and rash and be in prolonged, close, intimate contact with somebody in order to get it,” said Norwood.

Texas State said they will only send university-wide notifications if they feel it is warranted. UT Austin did not comment on their notification systems.

You can read more about monkeypox from UT Austin here and from Texas State here

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