University of Maryland reports first presumptive case of monkeypox

COLLEGE PARK, MD - NOVEMBER 14: An aerial view of the University of Maryland campus in College Park, Maryland on November 14, 2009. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

The University of Maryland reported its first presumptive case of monkeypox on Wednesday, according to university health officials.

In a letter sent to the school community, Dr. Spyridon Marinopoulos, the school's Chief Medical Officer, said a staff member at the school reported the infection. According to the letter, that staff member has "taken all necessary medical steps and is doing well."

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Health officials also say the school has taken cleaning and disinfection measures, as guided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, to help ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff.

The schools will be working with Prince George’s County Health officials to identify anyone who needs to be informed about the infection. 

The university also says it will continue to monitor monkeypox outbreaks in the school community, and will communicate additional guidance as needed.

Monkeypox Signs, Symptoms and Prevention from the CDC:

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder; and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.

Symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.

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The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.

Monkeypox spreads in different ways. The virus can spread from person-to-person through:

  • Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
  • Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
  • Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
  • Pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta

It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal.

Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others. At this time, it is not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.

Prevention Steps

Take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
  • Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
  • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
  • Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
  • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • In Central and West Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread monkeypox virus, usually rodents and primates. Also, avoid sick or dead animals, as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.

If you are sick with monkeypox:

  • Isolate at home
  • If you have an active rash or other symptoms, stay in a separate room or area away from people or pets you live with, when possible.

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University of Maryland health officials also say, students who believe they are developing monkeypox symptoms to contact the University Health Center (UHC) at 301-314-8184 or their own healthcare provider to report the symptoms and seek further guidance. Those who seek care through their own healthcare providers are asked to also call the UHC to report the case.