Will monkeypox become the next “frat flu”?
After many semesters of updated COVID-19 policies and procedures, including hundreds of emails that flooded our IU inboxes, I did what most students who are tired of the pandemic do: delete all the incoming emails. The pandemic has altered our lifestyle, and I have decided to adapt.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeling monkeypox as a disease that predominantly affects men who have sex with men might make one feel a particular type of immunity. A certain level of superiority might strike college students who do not fit that label as increased risk for contracting the virus. As a college campus, IU should do better at upkeeping and providing prevention strategies for all. The hookup culture at IU and colleges nationwide remains a staggering statistic, and everyone with close or intimate contact with infected individuals is at risk.
I left to study abroad in May, venturing halfway around the world to an unknown culture and new way of life. I traveled to Gaborone, Botswana. Right around my departure, there was a discussion of another emerging disease, monkeypox, which was not new. Other variations did not make headlines, like the new emerging strain in Europe.
The data from the CDC suggested that most cases came from men who identified as gay, bisexual and MSM identities; – I had many thoughts on this. Mostly surrounding that public health professionals stigmatized an illness early on, like the HIV/AIDs situation starting in the ‘80s.
As I settle back onto campus, I reflect on what I saw in Botswana. In this country, we continue to associate HIV-positive as a disease that affects men who have sex with men. Sub-Saharan Africa broke down the immediate association I had in my head when the illness showed higher prevalence in females due to unforeseen circumstances, such as many females in the commercial sex work industry and more females seeking medical care.
One of IU’s only communication outreaches regarding monkeypox came right before the undergraduate start this week. A publication from News at IU quotes a short interview by Graham McKeen, IU’s director of public and environmental health. In the interview, McKeen explained the virus’s signs and symptoms, protection mechanisms, exposure and treatment options and the university’s response.
IU’s response includes educational efforts with on-campus housing, student organizations and dining. When the disease is mainly communicable by close contact, why are the students who live off campus not included in mass outreach education efforts?
Additionally, Protect IU has a website published on monkeypox information. At what cost could IU afford to make several fliers with a QR code linking to this website to inform students about the symptoms and expectations if they contract the virus?
Two to four weeks is a long time for any college student to fall behind in the semester if they need to isolate for the virus. Those who can get the available vaccine should be encouraged to do so. Those worried or feeling anxious about the disease should know that post-exposure prophylaxis can prevent or lessen the severity of symptoms.
While IU is distracted by the new year, take time to educate and care for yourself. If you experience anything worrisome or out of the ordinary, seek guidance on how to receive treatment. Like COVID-19, I encourage you to think about your actions for your colleagues, neighbors and the IU community.
John Hultquist (he/him) is a senior studying community health with minors in urban planning/community development, global health promotion, and personal well-being.