The University of Houston is closely following the global monkeypox outbreak. Locally, the Houston Health Department and Harris County Public Health are tracking cases in our region. According to the CDC, the general threat of monkeypox to the public is considered LOW at this time.
On July 23, 2022, the World Health Organization declared the current global monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency. To help limit the spread, additional international coordination and response measures are being implemented.
The University of Houston is preparing response plans and University-specific guidance, should there be any cases on campus. Just as we have seen with other communicable diseases, infection rates on campus are likely to mirror the incidence of this virus in the community.
Learn More About Monkeypox
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
- Monkeypox can cause a rash that looks like bumps, blisters or ulcers, sometimes located on hands, feet, chest, face, around the genitals or inside the body including mouth, vagina or anus.
- Some people have flu-like illness before the rash develops.
- Most people recover in 2–4 weeks, but the disease can be serious, especially for children and people who are immune compromised or pregnant.
- Other symptoms of monkeypox can include, fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and fatigue.
- An individual isn’t considered contagious until symptoms appear. They remain contagious until all sores have healed, a new layer of skin is formed and scabs have fallen off.
How is monkeypox spread?
Anyone can get monkeypox, regardless of age, sex or gender identity, though the virus does not spread easily. Routes of transmission include:
- Direct physical contact with monkeypox rash, sores or scabs from a person with monkeypox. The CDC believes this is currently the most common way that monkeypox is spreading in the U.S.
- Kissing and other face-to-face contact due to contact with respiratory droplets or oral fluids (saliva)
- During sex through skin-to-skin and other intimate sexual contact
- Contact with objects, fabrics (e.g., clothing, bedding or towels) and surfaces used by someone with monkeypox
- It does not linger in the air; it is not thought to be transmitted during short periods of shared air space.
What should I do if I think I have monkeypox?
- If you believe you have been exposed, you should avoid close contact with other and watch closely for any symptoms.
- If you have a new or unexplained rash or other symptoms related to monkeypox, contact your health care provider immediately, even if you have had no known contact with someone who has monkeypox. Get tested and self-isolate pending test results to avoid spreading the infection to others.
- UH students can call the UH Student Health Center at 713-743-5151.
- UH employees should contact their personal health care provider or the UH Family Care Center at 713-743-9682.
- UH is currently developing university-specific guidelines.
What can individuals do to reduce risk and prevent spread?
Take the following steps to prevent getting or spreading 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.
Decreasing risk of stigma
Misinformation is already prevalent regarding monkeypox. It is not a sexually transmitted disease nor is it isolated to certain communities. As an inclusive and caring university community, we have a shared responsibility to refrain from using stigmatizing words or actions related to monkeypox virus. It is paramount that we share factual information so that people can make the best decisions for their health and the health of our community.