Kailynn Bannon | Oct. 8, 2022
As of Oct. 9, there have been 26 confirmed or probable cases of monkeypox in Polk County, with the majority of individuals falling into the 25-44 age range.
The number of cases in the county rose each month from July, when the first two cases were reported, to September which ended with a total of 13 cases.
Monkeypox is a viral disease that causes flu-like symptoms and rashes, similar to that of smallpox. These rashes go through painful and itchy stages which then develop into scabs before healing. The duration of the illness is usually two to four weeks.
It spreads from intimate contact, including touching objects and skin-to-skin contact. Monkeypox is not airborne, so it cannot spread just from being around a person who has the disease. Animals can also get infected by the disease and spread it to other animals or people.
The Florida Health website states, “If you become infected, avoid contact with people and pets – stay isolated from others and animals as much as possible.”
Many colleges and universities, like Florida Southern College, lack infectionary guidelines. The absence of these guidelines has led to multiple monkeypox outbreaks across Florida. The first monkeypox case in Polk County was reported in July of this year.
Many students in colleges across Florida are experiencing pandemic fatigue. From over two years of facing positive COVID-19 cases, students are worried that monkeypox will become the next pandemic.
Freshman Ashley Howard raised her concerns about the possibility of an outbreak on FSC’s campus.
“A lot of people don’t know [if someone is infected with the virus] … and that person might not know themselves either,” Howard said.
When asked if the school should have precautions for monkeypox, Howard commented on how she believes the school should stay in line with CDC guidelines.
“If the whole state is doing something, [the school] could possibly say something or encourage students to get the vaccine,” Howard said.
Florida currently has no precautions in place for preventing monkeypox cases or stopping the spread once a person is infected. The JYNNEOS or ACAM2000 vaccine is recommended for adults that have come into close contact with the virus, but it is not a state requirement.
Schools across Florida are facing monkeypox scares, but do not have many safety nets available for students because of a lack of precautions from the state. The University of Florida released a statement on Aug. 26 mentioning the prevalence of possible cases on campus.
In response, UF is providing testing for their students at their student health care center. However, like FSC, they are not implicating any mandates regarding the spread of the disease until the CDC releases new guidelines.
Florida State University has not published any positive cases yet, but they are advising students to call their health center and isolate at home until cleared to return to normal.
Polk County, along with most of the nation, has a very limited test and vaccine supply. If an individual suspects they have monkeypox, they must first contact their health care provider, who will then contact the county health department to obtain tests and vaccines.
The virus first developed in 1970, in African countries, with the most recent outbreak in the United States in May 2022. Later that month, the virus was first detected in Florida. With over 2,300 confirmed cases, Florida now has the third highest number of cases in the United States, behind New York and California. As of Aug. 2022, all fifty states have reported monkeypox cases.