BSA POV: Monkeypox

Campbell Helling, Copy

About two years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, a virus called Monkeypox began to gain recognition as it spread beyond its endemic roots in Africa. With the first case in the United States reported in mid-May of 2022, there have since been almost 24,000 more. Although the number may seem large, faculty member Kara Schrader feels somewhat reassured. “It is not as transmissible, nor is it as fatal,” she says. “I know that it is a relatively new virus that is spreading fairly rapidly, but has not been fatal in very many cases. And it requires that there be pretty intimate contact between people, so it’s not as contagious as COVID.”

Junior Cole Shumaker has similar opinions. “It’s not nearly as transmittable as COVID is…although it made me a lot more cautious about everything,” he says. “You get it from excessive skin-to-skin contact, and it definitely can be transmitted through sharing clothes. It could be pretty risky to go to stores that sell clothes and try them on,” he says. However, Shumaker is not too worried about the virus. “I don’t touch people that often,” he says.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Monkeypox is spread through excessive skin-to-skin contact, direct contact with a rash, bodily fluids or contact with a contaminated surface or object. Symptoms of the virus include a fever and a rash with lesions. Within two to four weeks, these blisters will disappear, according to the World Health Organization. They report that fatalities only account for 1-3% of the total cases, and children and immunocompromised people are more likely to have more severe cases.

Unlike Shumaker, seventh grader Genevieve Williams is more concerned about the symptoms. “It’s a little bit scarier because it shows up in blisters on your skin and can scar,” she says. But, when compared to the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams is not as worried: “When there was the first COVID case in America, nobody was really concerned about it, but then it turned into this big thing. But I think that a lot of people aren’t very nervous about it, which is good because it’s not as deadly,” she says. “I definitely don’t want to go through something like [COVID-19] again.”

“I may take it a little more seriously,” Schrader agrees.  “When COVID-19 first emerged, I was like ‘we won’t be affected’ and had an ‘it won’t happen to us’ kind of mentality. And now, that’s really changed,” she says. 

Sophomore Eni Wintoki shares a similar sentiment. “I feel like COVID’s kind of desensitized people to diseases a little bit. But it is good, though, that we already have the protections and stuff. I don’t know how [Monkeypox] transmits, but I feel like wearing a mask and washing your hands could still help. But knowing that we have those protections already here and already in circulation is really comforting,” she says. In addition, Wintoki finds the idea of more accessible details appealing. “Having more information would be great. Right now, we have signs and stuff with information about COVID, but maybe we could have a YouTube video with the WHO, about something like here’s what [Monkeypox] is, here’s how it spreads and how you can protect yourself,” she says. “I feel like I don’t know much about it right now, and I’d definitely like to, because I feel like the thing with COVID was that everyone was confused but everyone was confused together, so for the most part the general public got the information as it came about . . . I think that’s really comforting.”

Similarly, Schrader supports factual reporting on Monkeypox. “I just heard about it late in the summer in the news, and actually Dr. Schawang brought it up in our faculty meetings as well, and I’ve read a little bit here and there,” she says. “Keeping to the facts in the media is really important. I worry about certain populations, for example gay men being stigmatized much like when HIV first came out.” Overall, regarding the responses to Monkeypox, Schrader considers the media could have placed more emphasis than necessary. “In some cases maybe it has been blown up more than it should be and caused more fear than it should. But I think it’s good to keep people informed,” she says.