Dear Campus Community,
With the 2022-2023 academic year underway, we write to keep the UF community up to date on two public health concerns: COVID and monkeypox. With your participation and commitment as well as the guidance of our doctors, epidemiologists and infectious disease experts at UF Health, we believe the new semester represents an important opportunity for all members of the university community to make sure they are informed about how to protect themselves and others to minimize the spread of both illnesses.
Although transmission rates are declining nationally, community transmission in Alachua County continues to be high. With that in mind, we recommend all members of the campus community wear well-fitting masks such as an N95, KN95 or a surgical mask in public spaces; stay current with their vaccinations and boosters; get tested if they exhibit symptoms or have been exposed; and isolate appropriately in the event they contract the virus. As a reminder, individuals with COVID should isolate for a minimum of five days and wear a well-fitting mask for an additional five days in public spaces to minimize the risk of infecting others.
Those who are immunocompromised or have other risk factors are encouraged to consult with their physicians about medicines that can help protect against COVID before exposure as well as reduce the severity of the illness once a person tests positive. Further information on vaccinations and testing is available at coronavirus.UFHealth.org.
Because of at-home testing and the discontinuation of UF’s Screen, Test & Protect program, instructors will not receive notice of student absences but are still encouraged to be flexible in the event a student needs to isolate. Additionally, KN95 masks are available through colleges and departments for faculty and staff.
Monkeypox is on the rise nationally with confirmed cases in Alachua County as well as probable cases on campus. That said, with the increased level of activity as the new semester swings into gear, we want to make sure the campus community is aware of transmission risks and how to mitigate these risks. Human-to-human transmission occurs primarily through prolonged contact with an infected person’s lesions, or by wearing an infected person’s clothing, uniform or costume, or sharing towels or bedding. It can also be spread by respiratory droplets and smaller particles during prolonged face-to-face contact. Handshakes and other brief interactions are not high risk.
Most monkeypox cases in the U.S. have been transmitted through sexual contact. Non-monogamous men who engage in intimate activities with men are at a particularly elevated risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But it is likely more women will become infected as the disease progresses. We encourage everyone to be cautious and to prioritize safety and good health. Please visit the CDC website for additional information about risk factors as well as preventing spread.
If you believe you have been exposed to monkeypox or are at high risk of contracting monkeypox, and you develop a rash, fever, headache, muscle aches or exhaustion, please contact the Student Health Care Center or your private physician. The initial flu-like symptoms are followed by a rash (usually within one to three days, but sometimes longer), and swollen lymph nodes. However, some people develop the rash without prior flu-like symptoms. For most patients, monkeypox lasts two to four weeks, during which time they can transmit the infection to others, so isolation is recommended. Current data suggest people can spread monkeypox from the time symptoms start until all symptoms have resolved, including full healing of the rash with formation of a fresh layer of skin, according to the CDC.
Individuals who are immunocompromised or consider themselves high risk and would like a vaccine should contact their local county health department. Alachua County residents can call the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County at 352-334-8842.
As the school year continues, we will continue to monitor COVID and monkeypox to keep you updated as information evolves and campus policies are updated. Additional resources are also available at Wellness.ufl.edu and UF Health as well as the CDC website.
Thanks for doing your part to stay informed, to stay healthy and to make sure we do all we can to enjoy a safe and productive semester.
Joe Glover, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Charlie Lane, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
D’Andra Mull, Vice President for Student Life
David R. Nelson, M.D., Senior Vice President for Health Affairs, UF & President, UF Health
David Norton, Vice President for Research
Amanda Phalin, Faculty Senate Chair; Senior Lecturer, Department of Management, Warrington College of Business
Heather White, Associate Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students
UF Health COVID updates: https://coronavirus.ufhealth.org/
CDC guidance for institutions for higher learning on monkeypox: https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/community/higher-education.html
University guidance on health and wellness: https://wellness.ufl.edu/