AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As monkeypox cases rise across Texas, universities are thinking about proactive steps to try to prevent outbreaks.
“College students being college students may tend to engage in a little more risky behavior,” said Dr. Carolyn Bouma, associate professor of biology at West Texas A&M University.
This isn’t the first fluid situation college students have had to deal with while getting ready to be back on campus.
“Hopefully it’s not a COVID 2.0 thing,” Wooyon Cheng, a UT Austin senior, said.
Some students said they hope to get more direction on a response from their universities.
“I don’t know too much about it,” UT senior Paolo Syme said. “I know now that it’s not just sexually transmittable. So, I guess I’m a little worried about people coming in here and spreading it.”
Education is going to be key. According to a handful of universities we reached out to, that’s what they’re focusing on as students make their way back to campus.
“I think greater awareness is important for the medical services to spread, much like we did with COVID,” Bouma said.
West Texas A&M said it’s working with its local health department to monitor cases in its area.
Texas State University said it’s doing the same. According to a statement, Texas State also said, “Medical providers at the Student Health Center have all been updated on the clinical presentation of monkeypox and the protocol for evaluation and testing of any suspected cases.”
Dr. Rodney E. Rohde, professor and chair of the clinical laboratory science program at Texas State, said they’re monitoring the situation as it develops.
“In general, it [monkeypox] resolves in two to four weeks,” Rohde said. “But those people need to be isolated. And they need to be interviewed to understand their close contacts … we have therapeutics, and we have vaccinations.”
Other universities we reached out to did not have concrete plans to share with us to deal with potential outbreaks. However, Texas did receive nearly 15,000 doses of the monekypox vaccine toward the end of July. There were 80 confirmed monekypox cases around that time. Now, not even two weeks later, the state has nearly 400 confirmed cases. That’s nearly a 500% increase.
“Maybe I’ll be more careful when I go out,” Syme said. “Yeah, maybe I’ll just keep my eye out.
So far, cases have primarily been detected among gay men. But experts warn close contact of any kind could put you at risk.
Monkeypox vaccines are currently available through local health departments across the state, though you have to have documented or presumed exposure to the virus in order to receive one.