An update on the current monkeypox outbreak including tips and prevention strategies.

Dear Oxy Community,

As you have likely heard, the current monkeypox outbreak is a public health issue of local, national and international concern. No cases have been identified at Occidental to date, but Emmons and the College are tracking infection rates and resources locally, and want to provide you with some general information so that everyone is aware of the virus, its symptoms, modes of transmission, and prevention methods. While the risk to the general population remains relatively low, monkeypox is a legitimate public health issue that is relevant to everyone. It is imperative that we approach this outbreak without stigma or discrimination. We can each play a role in keeping ourselves and our community safe and healthy.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, which is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to those of smallpox, but milder, and is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.

Routes of transmission:

  • Monkeypox can spread when a person has close contact with someone who is infected with monkeypox, or when a person comes in contact with materials contaminated with the virus:
    • Direct contact with an infectious rash, scabs or body fluids
  • Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex
  • Touching objects, fabrics (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the rash or body fluids of someone with monkeypox
  • Being scratched or bitten by an infected animal
  • Monkeypox is not as contagious as COVID-19

Symptoms of monkeypox:

  • Early signs of monkeypox may include fever, muscle aches, headache, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, and sometimes cough or sore throat.
  • Monkeypox also causes a rash. The rash may be located on or near the genitals or anus, and could be on other areas of the body like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.
    • Rashes may vary in severity between people, can initially look like pimples or blisters, and may be painful or itchy.
    • The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
  • Symptoms can appear 5-21 days after exposure.
  • Infections can last two to four weeks.
  • Individuals may experience all or only a few symptoms.
  • If you experience any symptoms of monkeypox or have been exposed, please get evaluated by your healthcare provider, or call 2-1-1 for assistance with L.A. County health and human services programs if you don’t have a regular medical provider.

It is important to note that anyone can get monkeypox. This virus, like all viruses, does not infect people based on their identities.

Prevention strategies:

  • Because monkeypox is spread via contact with an infected person, or materials contaminated by the virus, many of the prevention methods involve maintaining safety practices during very close, intimate contact. 
  • Avoid oral, anal, and vaginal sex, or touching the genitals or anus of someone with monkeypox.
  • Avoid hugging, massaging, kissing, or talking closely with someone with monkeypox.
  • Students in residence halls or sharing off-campus housing should avoid sharing towels and bed linens, including blankets, sheets, and pillowcases.
  • Avoid touching fabrics, shared surfaces, and objects (e.g. sex toys) used by someone with monkeypox.
  • Wash hands with soap and water regularly, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask when in close contact with others, especially around those who have been infected by the virus.
  • Avoid contact with animals that could have the virus (such as animals that are sick or that have been found dead).
  • Get vaccinated if eligible.
  • Vaccines are currently being prioritized for those exposed to monkeypox, and those at higher risk, age 18+
  • Vaccines are in limited supply, and available through the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Emmons does not currently have access to monkeypox vaccine.

For additional information, including vaccination eligibility and pre-registration, visit and sign up for the newsletter to receive regular monkeypox updates from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Sex-positive resources for reducing the risk of spreading and contracting the disease are also available from the CDC and other organizations such as our local Los Angeles LGBT Center.

We will continue to monitor the outbreak, and provide the Oxy community with updates as additional information and resources become available. As always, thank you for doing all you can to keep yourselves and each other healthy and safe.

Devon Sakamoto, MPH
Assistant Dean of Students for Emmons Wellness Center