(WHTM) — Two Pennsylvania colleges have reported cases of monkeypox as of early August — Bucknell University and West Chester University.
Health experts say those numbers could go up once students go back to school. Dr. John Goldman from UPMC agrees.
“One of the things that is driving the transmission right now is that we stopped giving smallpox vaccinations and kids who are in college are at the age where they haven’t been vaccinated for smallpox, don’t have cross-immunity and so it spreads more easily,” said Dr. John Goldman, infectious disease specialist at UPMC.
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Pennsylvania has documented about 170 cases so far. Dr. John Goldman says colleges could be the new monkeypox battleground.
“Colleges are the type of setting which transmits a disease like that well. A lot of people crowded together and a lot of young people with more to skin contact than the general population,” Dr. Goldman said.
We reached out to several universities about how they plan to keep students safe. They say they’re closely monitoring the situation. In a statement, Franklin & Marshall College said that while the risk to the greater campus community remains low, they’re preparing for the possibility of monkeypox cases on campus.
Could that include a return to virtual learning as a contingency plan? We’re continuing to ask those questions.
In the meantime, Dr. Goldman says local universities need to be proactive.
“It’s simple education, simple handwashing and if cases do occur, ring vaccination where they vaccinate people who might have had contact with a student with monkeypox,” he added.