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Colleges prepare for monkeypox as students return to campus

As many COVID restrictions are lifted at universities, administrators are concerned about a new virus.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It's back to class for students at universities in Indiana.

As schools ease COVID restrictions, students are faced with a new concern - the monkeypox virus.

"Any kind of new or unexplained rashes are a good time to take pause and get those evaluated," said Graham McKeen, assistant university director of public and environmental health at Indiana University.

The state health department has confirmed 84 monkeypox cases in Indiana. Nearly 12,000 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., but none on the IU campus.

"We've also reached out to our directors of our LGBTQ+ communities on the two main campuses that we have. And we're talking with the Marion County Health Department to explore the possibility of hosting a JYNNEOS vaccine clinic for those high-risk groups that we might have on campus," said McKeen.

RELATED: Back-to-school with COVID-19 variants and monkeypox outbreaks

According to the Centers for Disease Control, anyone can get monkeypox. The virus can spread primarily through intimate sexual contact.

It can also spread by infected rashes or exchange of body fluids, or touching objects, fabrics and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.

McKeen said there are challenges when it comes to monkeypox.

"That duration of illness and the duration of your infectiousness. You're actually infectious with monkeypox the entire time you have the boils, legions, pustules. That rash is there and until that rash scabs over, those scabs fall off and new skin forms," said McKeen.

McKeen said that process can take 2-4 weeks.

"We don't think you spread monkeypox until you have the symptoms and so if we have good public health systems in place, we can really minimize the impacts of this disease," he said. 

A disease, McKeen said, is preventable.

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