The Bowdoin Health Center continues to spread awareness and increase preparedness surrounding monkeypox following students’ return to campus weeks after the World Health Organization declared the infectious disease an area of international concern. As national anxieties about monkeypox lessen with a decrease in U.S. cases this past month, the Health Center maintains contingency plans in the case of student infection and works to address concerns.
On August 12, Director of Health Services Sandra Hayes emailed the student body providing information about monkeypox transmission, symptoms and vaccination. Now, students who meet criteria for a higher risk of infection are eligible to receive the monkeypox vaccine through the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), with the two closest clinics in Portland.
The Health Center is prepared to evaluate potential monkeypox cases and provide testing.
In the case of an infection on campus, Hayes said the Health Center can administer the antiviral drug treatments that have been difficult to acquire in some regions of the country due to her relationship with Cumberland County’s CDC office.
Hayes has also created an advisory committee of members from the Office of Residential Life; the Center for Sexuality, Women and Gender; the Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Health Education; Health Center care providers and student deans. The advisory committee will host a virtual town hall to address student questions and concerns about monkeypox on Friday, September 30 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
“We’re trying to provide education and prevention in a place where people can share in a safe space,” Hayes said. “So [the committee] is trying to do all that preemptively.”
Hayes said that after experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone was on higher alert for infectious diseases and more prepared to take immediate action. However, it appears that initial concerns about the potential spread of monkeypox were greater than current transmission rates across the country prove to be.
“I am really happy that the numbers are going down in the United States. We’re seeing sometimes pockets flare up, but not to [the extent] we thought,” Hayes said. “The initial ‘oh no, this is the next Covid’ [moment] didn’t come to fruition, and I’m grateful for that.”