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How San Antonio colleges are preparing for potential monkeypox outbreaks

While transmission remains low in Bexar County, higher education institutions are working to educate students about the virus and preventative measures.

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Metro Health officials said Tuesday monkeypox transmission remains low for Bexar County. To date, there have been 20 confirmed cases, and at least 62 people who have had a vaccine, according to Metro Health.

Assistant Director for Metro Health Dr. Anita Kurian said the city received 3500 more vaccines this week and have been allocated based on priority groups.

“We are seeing a slow, very slow increase in the number of cases here in san Antonio, we are not seeing a widespread spread,” Dr. Kurian said.

The virus is spread mostly through skin to skin or sexual contact, but can also be transmitted after touching objects, clothes, or linens of someone who has been infected. While the most impacted have been men who have sex with other men, anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity can become infected. This month, the CDC provided guidance for congregate settings if a monkeypox case has been identified.

Ahead of the fall semester, colleges and universities are asked to educate students on monkeypox symptoms, transmission, prevention, and treatment options in a way that reduces the stigma and does not further marginalize the queer community.

“They do tend to live in close quarters and there are a lot more activities that could put them at risk for contracting infections,” said Dr. Kurian.

San Antonio area colleges are working closely with Metro Health and public health authorities to provide education and resources.

Metro Health will be providing answers during a Monkeypox Forum Thursday, August 18 from 7 P.M. - 8 P.M. 

Here is how local colleges and universities are responding to the monkeypox endemic:

Texas A&M University:
Texas A&M University-San Antonio will be sending a detailed University-wide communication as students return to campus regarding COVID-19 protocols as well as general guidance for monkeypox. The University will be providing specific information about prevention and activity risk ratings for transmission. Because the vaccine for monkeypox is in limited availability, it is not possible to schedule clinics on campus at this time, but we are directing our community to the City of San Antonio website, San Antonio Metro Health’s monkeypox webpage, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monkeypox website for more information. Resources will be provided on our website as they become available.

University of Texas at San Antonio:

We know that news about another infectious disease is concerning, especially in light of our ongoing response to COVID-19. Campus mental health resources are available to students through Wellbeing Services and to faculty and staff through the Employee Assistance Program.

Part of UTSA’s robust response to COVID-19 involved enhancing and expanding our campus disinfection protocols and procedures. This practice will continue, with regular disinfection of high-touch areas throughout our campuses using cleaning agents and processes aligning with EPA guidance for effective inactivation of viral pathogens.

While there are effective vaccines against monkeypox, supplies are limited at this time. Currently, the CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox or are more likely to get monkeypox. San Antonio Metro Health is currently providing vaccines to individuals in greatest need according to priority groups.

Full message to UTSA students here.

Our Lady of the Lake University:
The OLLU Health Education Resource Office (HERO) began sharing information with students about monkeypox last week as they were returning to the residence halls. The information includes details on what monkeypox is, risk factors, symptoms and when to get tested.

In addition, the OLLU emergency response team that has been providing guidance on COVID-19 is now also monitoring the monkeypox situation. As we continue to do with COVID-19, we are seeking guidance from San Antonio Metro Health and the CDC. With that guidance, we are preparing for the possibility of monkeypox cases on campus.

St. Mary's University:
St. Mary’s University community members are directed to seek out information about monkeypox through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about protecting themselves and others from getting or being exposed to the virus. Students with symptoms of monkeypox or exposure to the virus are expected to inform the Student Health Center, stay home and follow the isolation guidance provided by the Student Health Center’s medical team. St. Mary’s will reinforce these individual conversations with mass email communications and guidance posted on the website.

Trinity University:
“As students prepare to return to campus, Trinity University is closely monitoring the MPV (monkeypox) infection through the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. The University also has protocols in place and is ready to identify and treat any infections that may occur through its Student Health Services. More information about MPV and its impact on public health will be updated and made available as public health officials continue to learn more about the current outbreak.” 

University of Incarnate Word: 
“The University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) is working directly with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department to provide education and reduce stigma within our community on the monkeypox virus. UIW plans to evaluate each case individually with assistance from the Health Department. At this time, classroom settings are considered low risk for spread of the virus. UIW has had no on-campus cases of monkeypox, but our Health Services personnel has been trained and supplies are available for any cases that might arise.”

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