AUSTIN (KXAN) — Monday marks the start of the semester at the University of Texas at Austin.
For the past two years, much discussion revolved around what COVID-19 protocols were being put in place as kids returned to campus. Yet this fall, some students like Rachel Vickery are worried about the spread of monkeypox.
“Any virus can really spread easily in such a concentrated area,” she said. “I lived in the dorm, and I feel like everyone was sick just because we’re all so close.”
UT Freshman Annie Fu shares similar concerns.
“If someone has it and is sitting in a lecture hall, and then I sit in the same seat, that is slightly concerning,” she said.
Despite thousands of college kids clustering together in classrooms, cafeterias and dorms, CommUnityCare sexual health programs associate director Dr. Michael Stefanowicz said there shouldn’t be cause for concern.
“Attending a class or hanging out with friends in a college dorm, social events where people perhaps are clustered, elbow to elbow — all of those are categorically very low risk,” he said.
With 93 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Travis County, local leaders have declared monkeypox a public health emergency.
“From a health equity perspective, this virus is disproportionately impacting gay and bisexual men,” Stefanowicz said.
According to health experts, monkeypox is mainly transmitted sexually through skin-to-skin contact. With this in mind, Stefanowicz offered this advice to stop the spread.
“Consider limiting sexual partners to a smaller group of intimate partners, if possible,” he said.
Texas exchange student Mickael Topiol is looking forward to the fall semester while trying to push past the pandemic.
“Coming here, I really like, I’m really looking forward to having a kind of post-pandemic life. So hopefully monkeypox isn’t coming here to interrupt that,” Topiol said.
KXAN contacted UT’s University Health Services about its response to monkeypox. It responded with the following statement:
“The university has mitigation protocols for this infectious disease. The risk to the broader campus community remains low, and the monkeypox virus does not spread easily without close contact. Like other illnesses with similar modes of transmission, we provide public health education to the community, appropriate training to healthcare providers, and collaborate with key stakeholders on any environmental strategies needed to reduce the incidence or spread within our population.”