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Penn State University Park reports its first case of monkeypox

A colorized transmission electron micrograph of monkeypox particles (red) found within an infected cell (blue), cultured in the laboratory that was captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Md.
NIAID via AP
A colorized transmission electron micrograph of monkeypox particles (red) found within an infected cell (blue), cultured in the laboratory that was captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Md.

A student at Penn State University Park has tested positive for the school’s first confirmed case of monkeypox, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health and a press release from Penn State on Wednesday.

The student tested positive on Saturday. They live off-campus and are currently isolating and recovering.

Penn State’s University Health Services is working with the Department of Health to monitor the case. The DOH is finding and notifying close contacts.

Penn State included information on symptoms and prevention in the press release, and guidance on what to do if students and employees catch the virus.

The university says students with monkeypox should isolate at home, since isolation can last up to four weeks. Students who live on campus and can’t return home must move to an isolation room.

“The 40 rooms established for COVID-19 isolation will be used for this purpose as they are ideally set up for single-person isolation,” said Penn State spokesman Wyatt DuBois. “Student Affairs staff will work with individuals who are unable to travel.”

Penn State says any employees with monkeypox symptoms should stay home and contact their health care provider for testing. Those who test positive should isolate and work remotely or use sick time until they’re no longer contagious.

In another press release Wednesday, Penn State urged students to protect themselves from monkeypox and provided information about symptoms, transmission, protection from catching the virus and what to do if they do catch it.

“We know that students often live in close quarters and spend a lot of time interacting closely with their peers, so we want our community to be aware of the signs and symptoms of monkeypox and steps that they can take to protect themselves and our campus community as a whole,” said Dr. Rebecca Simcik, medical director of UHS. “We are in close contact with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and we have a response plan in place for diagnosing, assessing and treating any student who may contract the monkeypox virus.”

Monkeypox is spread primarily through close, often skin-to-skin, contact, according to the CDC. Symptoms include fever, rash, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, muscle ache, headache, sore throat and cough.

Monkeypox is contagious for 2 to 4 weeks, until the rash has fully healed. It usually clears up on its own, without medications.

There have been 362 cases of monkeypox statewide in Pennsylvania as of Aug. 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York has the highest number of cases of any state at 2,675.

This story was updated at 3:50 p.m. to include new information from Penn State on isolation facilities.

Emily Reddy is the news director at WPSU-FM, the NPR-affiliate public radio station for central and northern Pennsylvania.