Facts About Monkeypox

Dear CUNY Community:

In light of Governor Hochul’s declaration last week of a State of Disaster Emergency in response to the current outbreak of monkeypox, I want you to know that CUNY is closely monitoring the status of the virus in New York and working with state and city health officials to keep our community informed and protected. 

Monkeypox is a viral infection that causes flu-like symptoms and rashes. It can vary in severity but, thankfully, it is only rarely life-threatening. The virus spreads mainly through close, physical contact with someone who is infected. Data from the current outbreak thus far indicate that certain populations are being affected more than others, including men who have sex with men. But anyone can get it. The United States now has the largest number of monkeypox cases among countries where the virus is not endemic. Governor Hochul noted that New York State accounts for more than one in four cases in the U.S. Mayor Adams said that New York City is the epicenter and on Monday he declared a local state of emergency. As of Wednesday, there have been 1,558 confirmed cases in the city, accounting for 93 percent of the cases in the state. 

How to Protect Yourself

The NYS Department of Health advises that New Yorkers can protect themselves by taking simple steps, which are especially important for those who may be at higher risk for severe disease, including people with weakened immune systems. These include asking sexual partners whether they have a rash or other symptoms consistent with monkeypox and avoiding skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a rash or other monkeypox-related symptoms.

Health officials advise that anyone who believes they have been exposed or experiences the rashes or lesions characteristic of monkeypox should contact their health care provider for an assessment and possible treatment with an antiviral medication. There are also vaccines that can help reduce the chance and severity of infection for people who have recently been exposed to the virus or those in high-risk groups. You can find information about who is currently eligible for vaccines and how to schedule one by visiting hereCUNY Campus Health Services can also assess for symptoms of monkeypox, answer questions and make referrals to outside medical services.

The spread of monkeypox, like that of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, has been accompanied by misinformation, some of which stigmatizes members of particular demographic groups. As has been the case through the more than two years of the coronavirus pandemic, CUNY is committed to providing its students, faculty and staff with the reliable information and sound, up-to-date guidance they need to protect themselves and their families and prevent monkeypox from spreading on our campuses. In addition, Governor Hochul’s executive order outlines the state’s response to the outbreak. I urge you to learn about monkeypox, how to avoid infection and what to do if you get it by visiting the links below.

We are living in a time of continuing and unpredictable threats to public health that require prudent and informed responses. CUNY will always make the health and safety of its students, faculty and staff our top priority. As with the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to work with government health agencies and our own public health experts to provide our community with the soundest guidance possible.


Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, Ph.D.

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