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Even though health experts “do not expect a large number of monkeypox cases on campus,” Northwestern Universtity officials are letting the school community know that they are not waiting for students or staff to become ill before planning what to do.

In a message to that community, Anita Opdycke, director of operations for Student Health Service, and University Vice President Luke Figora, say that students who come down with monkeypox will have to follow a “strict isolation protocol until they have fully recovered.”

Infected individuals, the officials explain, are contagious from “when lesions start until all rashes or lesions are healed.” It usually takes about two-to-four weeks for recovery.

“Given the length of the isolation period now advised,” Opdycke and Figora add, “students living on campus must isolate off campus until they have healed.”

In the “rare event” where such off campus housing is not possible to find, Northwestern does have a “limitied number of rooms” where students can isolate “on or near campus.”

While in recovery isolation, students will not be allowed to attend class. In specific situations depending on circumstances, a “medical leave of absence” is at least a possibility.

The officials say it’s also critical to understand that the monkeypox virus is “distinct in many ways” from the other well-publicized virus still out there, COVID-19.

COVID is generally spread by airborne transmission of virus-containing droplets.

Monkeypox, on the other hand, “is spreading primarily through close, personal skin-to-skin contact when someone has active lesions caused by the virus,” or by sharing fabrics such as bedding or towels.

Northwestern currently has some monkeypox vaccine on hand, although “supply is limited” as of now. The NU officials say that such vaccine is for people who have been exposed to a confirmed monkeypox case, or those considered at increased risk of getting the illness.

Northwestern has not reported any cases of monkeypox on campus.

The Evanston Health and Human Services Department said the city’s first case was confirmed in late June.

More than 500 monkeypox cases have been reported statewide.

More information on NU’s monkeypox plans is available online.


Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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