As monkeypox cases increase nationally, Clark County colleges make plans for response

·3 min read

Sep. 5—As area college students return to classes in Clark County, college administrators and health leaders are planning their responses to the spread of monkeypox in the state.

Congregate settings like college campuses have been a concern among health officials during the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts are urging extra caution among students as monkeypox cases increase worldwide.

In Clark County, Wittenberg University students returned to campus last week, and students of Clark State College began their return to school in August.

Monkeypox is a virus spread through close personal contact, often skin to skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It causes a rash that may look like pimples or blisters that will form into to scabs before healing. Some people may have flu-like symptoms, which could come following the rash. Fatalities from the disease are rare.

Wittenberg University's leaders are working with their partners at Mercy Health to monitor the monkeypox outbreak and "all guidance and health care guidelines put forth by the Clark County Combined Health District, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization," according to the university's Office of Student Development.

The office said that given "low" case numbers in the state and locally, it remains vigilant with monitoring but does "not plan to implement any specific restrictions at this time."

As of Friday, 184 cases were reported statewide, with no cases confirmed in Clark County. Neighboring Montgomery County reported four cases, and Madison County reported one case, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).

Some tests for potential cases of monkeypox have been conducted in Springfield and Clark County, but returned negative for the virus, according to the Clark County Combined Health District.

ODH reported that more than 97% of confirmed cases in the state have been reported among men, but health officials there also say that anyone can get monkeypox.

The Clark County Combined Health District is working with local healthcare providers to give out a very limited pool of monkeypox vaccines, which are being distributed among high-risk people using the CDC's recommended tier approach.

Men, transgender women and non-binary people who have sex with men and either have risk factors or have a partner with risk factors are eligible for the vaccine. Risk factors include being HIV positive or living with AIDS, being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease or infection in the last 12 months, having a history of multiple or anonymous sex partners, and more.

Having a high risk of being exposed where they work, being a close contact of someone who has been diagnosed with or tested positive for monkeypox, having attended an event or activity where there were monkeypox cases or known transmission can also make someone eligible for the vaccine, according to the health district.

Mark Franz, the Clark State College's senior vice president of technology, safety and strategic initiatives, said the college is working closely with the Clark County Combined Health District to put out information to students and college employees about the spread of the virus.

Clark State students with questions or concerns about the virus can contact the Leffel Lane campus' Mercy Health clinic, located on the first floor of the Applied Science Center. The clinic can be reached at 937-523-9280.

Monkeypox can spread from person to person through direct contact with the rash, its scabs, or with body fluids. It also can be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, according to the CDC.

Franz said that if a student, faculty or staff were to believe they were exposed to the virus or may have contracted it, they should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

"Their healthcare provider or local department of health will be able to provide actionable information that will be relevant to the specific set of circumstances," Franz said.

Clark State College will follow the recommendations of health departments and agencies in terms of quarantine protocol in the event of exposure or infection, a spokesperson confirmed.