Public Health Update: Monkeypox

Last Updated: September 27, 2022

GW’s public health and medical experts have been closely monitoring developments related to monkeypox (MPX) and collaborating with local, regional, and federal health officials to understand the virus, its prevalence in the District and surrounding region, and how best to prevent its spread.

Even though D.C. has higher case rates of MPX than other parts of the United States, MPX is occurring very infrequently among our community; to date, we are aware of a small number of MPX cases, which have not caused severe complications. Our university may see additional instances of MPX this fall, and we will continue to provide support, resources, and updates as the semester continues.

MPX Symptoms and Transmission

  • MPX ​​is a viral infection that does not spread easily without close contact. It is spread by direct contact with skin lesions and by indirect contact with skin lesions (such as by sharing bedding or personal items). In rare cases, it may also spread by respiratory droplets; however, in the current outbreak, skin-to-skin contact has been the primary mode of transmission.
  • MPX causes a variety of symptoms in different stages. Some people may first experience fever or chills, headache, muscle aches, backache, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms may or may not precede the onset of a rash. Common sites of sores, pustules, or scabs include the genitals, anus, face, chest, hands, and feet. Sores may also develop in the mouth and on genital or anal mucosa.
  • Symptoms typically occur 7-14 days after exposure but may occur 5-21 days after exposure.
  • MPX is infectious from the time symptoms begin.

Prevention and Treatment

  • Primarily, you can prevent MPX exposure by avoiding close contact with skin, clothing, towels or bedding of infected people. It is important to understand that at this time, the primary mode of transmission is skin-to-skin contact in very close social activities like kissing, dancing or cuddling. While this contact can occur in the context of sexual activity, MPX is not a sexually transmitted disease, and condoms are not protective. 
  • Healthcare workers and students in the pre-professional health sciences should wear an N95 mask, face shield, gloves and gown when treating people who have MPX.
  • MPX vaccines and treatment options are available but at this time supplies are limited. People at high risk for MPX who meet eligibility requirements may be able to receive a vaccine through DC Health. Pharmaceutical treatments may be prescribed only to those who have been diagnosed by a health provider with MPX. If you suspect you may have MPX, please consult a health care provider for more information.

What if I Think I Have Had an Exposure?  

You do not need to isolate after an exposure as long as you remain symptom free. You will need to monitor for symptoms and check your temperature twice a day for 21 days. If you have had a high risk exposure, you may be eligible for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) with Jynneos. This option should be discussed with a physician or clinician. 

Students: If you are concerned about an exposure, students should contact the Student Health Center via phone at 202-994-5300 from 8:30 am - 5 pm (Monday to Friday) to be evaluated by a GW clinician for next steps. After hours calls will be answered by a triage nurse. An overnight triage nurse can discuss your concerns and will recommend that you be seen by a GW clinician for further evaluation. 

Faculty and Staff: contact your primary care physician or a clinic like Whitman Walker as they are assessing patients for MPX. 

What if I Have Symptoms?

Students: If you are concerned about symptoms, please isolate first. Once isolated, contact the Student Health Center at 202-994-5300 from 8:30 am - 5 pm (Monday to Friday) to schedule a telehealth visit and be evaluated for further treatment. If you call 202-994-5300 after regular business hours, the after-hours triage nurse can discuss your symptoms with you, however, you will need to wait until the next business day to schedule an appointment to be seen by a GW clinician. If at any time, you feel you are experiencing a life threatening situation, please call 911.  

Faculty and Staff: contact your primary care physician or a clinic like Whitman Walker as they are assessing patients for MPX. If you have questions about whether you should be coming in-person to campus,please contact GW’s Occupational Health team. 

More Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

MPX is a viral infection that does not spread easily without close contact. It is spread by direct contact with skin lesions and by indirect contact with skin lesions (by sharing towels, bedding or personal items). It may also spread by respiratory droplets.

MPX causes a variety of symptoms in different stages. Some people may first experience fever or chills, headache, muscle aches, backache, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms may or may not precede the onset of a rash. Common sites of sores, pustules or scabs include the genitals, anus, face, chest, hands and feet. Sores may also develop in the mouth and on genital or anal mucosa. Symptoms typically occur 7-14 days after exposure but may occur 5-21 days after exposure. Monkeypox is infectious from the time symptoms begin.

In general, the risk of MPX infection in the U.S., in D.C. and among our campus community continues to be very low.

Living in a residence hall does not create an elevated risk for MPX infection. We encourage students to follow the same prevention guidelines for all individuals, including by avoiding close contact with skin or clothing of an infected person and by wearing a mask.

No, for the 2022-2023 academic year, GW will practice isolation in place for MPX-positive individuals within the residence halls. 

Severe complications from MPX infection are rare, and as of Sept. 2022, the CDC has reported one death in the United States related to MPX complications.

Students who are concerned they may have been exposed to MPX should contact the Student Health Center or their primary care provider for further recommendations.

Faculty and staff who are concerned they may have been exposed to MPX should contact their health care provider or Occupational Health.

Students who are concerned they may have symptoms of MPX should isolate and then contact the Student Health Center or their primary care provider for further recommendations.

Faculty and staff experiencing symptoms of MPX or who have further questions should contact their health care provider or Occupational Health.

The latest information about MPX is available via the CDC and DC Department of Health.

The university has not been allocated MPX vaccines to distribute directly to the university community. While MPX vaccines are available, access is limited to people who are in higher risk groups. Members of the GW community who meet eligibility requirements may be able to receive a vaccine through DC Health.

Yes, pharmaceutical treatments are available for MPX and can be prescribed at the discretion of your health care provider. Treatment may be dependent on availability of treatments and severity of symptoms.

If you are experiencing symptoms of MPX, please consult your health care provider, who can confirm the diagnosis via a test. For students, the Student Health Center can provide more guidance on assessing symptoms and ordering testing.

While MPX can be transmitted by sexual activity, this is not the only way it can be transmitted.   Shaking someone's hand, sharing a drink or dancing closely are all ways MPX can spread.  Anyone is at risk if exposed, regardless of sexual orientation.