University of Michigan officials prepare for fall term in Ann Arbor as monkeypox rises in state

University of Michigan LSA hosts a 2021 Fall Welcome Back Picnic on the lawn of Angell Hall. (Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography)

ANN ARBOR – Health officials at the University of Michigan are preparing to tackle a new virus as the fall term and the return of students to campus approach.

Cases of monkeypox continue to rise in Michigan, and last week the federal government declared a public health emergency to boost response efforts as more than 7,000 cases have been reported across the country.

Chief health officer at U-M, Robert D. Ernst, said despite the increase in cases, risk to the general public in Washtenaw County remains low.

Read: University of Michigan expert: What you should know about monkeypox

Monkeypox is not nearly as transmissible as COVID-19 and is spread primarily through direct contact with an infected individual.

As the school prepares to welcome tens of thousands of students back to campus, Ernst said officials are already mobilizing response efforts in the case the virus becomes present on campus.

“Our team has been working very closely with local public health officials, including the Washtenaw County Health Department, to coordinate campus evaluation and management strategies,” Ernst said in a statement. “In addition to raising awareness about MPV and providing access to testing, treatment and vaccination when indicated, it’s also important to understand the ways in which MPV differs from COVID-19 and why containment strategies may differ.”

Though rarely fatal, MPV can be painful for those who develop the disease’s distinctive lesions. Symptoms tend to develop one to two weeks after exposure. It generally starts with flu-like symptoms including muscle aches, fever, headache, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes. Then a rash appearing like pimples, sores or blisters develops and often lasts two to four weeks.

Read: Michigan’s top doctor speaks on state of monkeypox outbreak

Though antiviral medications and monkeypox vaccines are in limited supply, the Washtenaw County Health Department is the area’s only distribution site for confirmed cases.

According to a U-M release, preventive measures for MPV include:

  • Those exposed to someone with MPV or who have a rash they think might be MPV, should contact their health care provider as soon as possible.
  • Those with a suspicious rash should away from others, cover all of the lesions and wear a mask until they can see their health care provider.
  • Wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching one’s face and after using the bathroom.
  • Avoid direct, skin-to-skin contact with people who have MPV lesions or rashes that look like they may be MPV.
  • Talk to the people with whom you have come in direct contact, including intimate and sexual contact, about their general health and any other recent rashes or sores.
  • Avoid contact with any objects, fabrics or materials, such as bedding, clothing and towels, that have been in contact with an infected person.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.