Dear faculty, staff and students,
We hope you are looking forward to the start of O-Week and fall classes. As the campus prepares for the fall semester, we feel it is important to share some information on monkeypox as well as some prevention measures.
Monkeypox is not a new virus, but the CDC is documenting a wider spread across an increased number of countries than is typical. The number of local cases in Harris County has continued to rise, and Rice continues to monitor local and national case numbers.
While Harris County Public Health considers the general public threat of monkeypox low at this time, last week the White House declared monkeypox a public health emergency. For the health and safety of our community, we urge caution in the weeks ahead.
The CDC describes monkeypox as part of the same family of viruses that cause smallpox. While it can be painful, it is rarely fatal. Spread of the virus typically happens through direct intimate contact with sores or bodily fluids, but has also been documented less frequently through prolonged intimate exposure to respiratory droplets, and contact with an infected person’s clothing or sheets.
The incubation period for this virus can be up to three weeks from exposure. Symptoms generally appear as a rash that can develop into painful blisters lasting from two to four weeks, and patients may also experience symptoms similar to those of a cold or flu, such as fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes.
It is important that we all work to keep ourselves and our community safe. Recommended monkeypox prevention strategies include:
- Avoid close skin-to-skin contact with individuals who are infected, exposed, or have a rash that looks like monkeypox
- Avoid touching or sharing objects utilized by an infected person including cups, utensils, bedding, towels, or clothing
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water and/or utilize alcohol-based hand sanitizer
While vaccines are another prevention measure, there is currently a limited supply nationally and locally. We will continue to monitor vaccine recommendations and availability and encourage eligible individuals to consult with their healthcare providers.
In Case of Exposure or Symptoms
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms or has a known exposure to monkeypox, please call your healthcare provider to consult on next steps. Students can call Student Health Services at (713) 348-4966 (see health.rice.edu for hours). Faculty and staff are encouraged to contact their primary care physicians. Harris County Public Health also has a monkeypox hotline (832-927-0707) for guidance and questions related to vaccinations and testing.
While monkeypox is not as contagious as COVID-19, we hope to work together as a community to limit exposure and spread. Please take care of yourself and others, and we will continue to share updates and information as the situation evolves.
For more information, please visit https://health.rice.edu/monkeypox-information
Reginald DesRoches, President
Amy Dittmar, Howard Hughes Provost
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates