After the World Health Organization declared on July 23, 2022 that the global outbreak of monkeypox has become a Public Health Emergency of International Concern — the highest warning level they can assign — and the U.S. declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Aug. 4, 2022, colleges began to develop plans to address the new outbreak. 

Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Andrea Dine sent out an email on Aug. 16 titled “Monkeypox Resources and Preparedness” where she responded to students’ concerns about the University’s monkeypox response. She stated that they were keeping track of the public health situation, and the Health Center clinicians were training staff and creating “plans to identify, test, treat, isolate, manage contacts, and monitor cases.” In addition, Facilities teams are using guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to update their cleaning protocols. 

Dine encouraged students to educate themselves on the disease in order to mitigate the spread of monkeypox. The email also provided various resources such as the Brandeis Student Health Center website, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Monkeypox website, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monkeypox website. Dine urged students to avoid stigmatizing individuals or communities with monkeypox infections, and emphasized that there are other ways to become infected other than sexual transmission, such as direct contact with the monkeypox rash or respiratory secretions. Once supply of the monkeypox vaccine increases, the Health Center will do its best to obtain it and administer it to the student population.  

As colleges prepare mitigation strategies against monkeypox, key challenges arise for them. People who test positive for COVID-19 are contagious for less than 10 days. On the other hand, a monkeypox infection can last for a few weeks. Students who contract monkeypox will possibly have to isolate for a significant amount of time, which may prompt the need for remote learning options and academic support. Since monkeypox can be spread through touching fabrics, such as clothing or linens that come into contact with the rash or bodily fluids of someone with monkeypox, universities may need to think about how to clean to prevent further spread of the disease. Brandeis’ monkeypox guidance website has not addressed whether the University will be providing isolation housing for people who test positive. 

In the meantime, Dine urged students: “let’s educate ourselves to mitigate the spread of monkeypox, and care for and empathize with those who have contracted it.”