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Infectious Disease Updates - COVID-19 and Monkeypox


Dear students,

We are writing today to provide information about a change to our campus masking guidance and to share a few reminders about the important public health safety protocols that have helped us keep staff and students safely working and learning.

Masks: Effective immediately masks are optional, but encouraged, in all Medical School spaces except in the clinical wings on floors 2-7 of the Medical School building, the clinical research center and in iCELS. When in the clinical wings, clinical research center, iCELS or, of course, any UMass Memorial site, masks are required, consistent with the UMass Memorial Medical Center guidelines. The South Street campus is also mask optional. As before, we ask that you respect the decision of any colleague who continues to wear a mask while at work.

Flu vaccine requirement and COVID-19 booster: We continue to strongly recommend that anyone who is eligible for the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine receive this shot. Bivalent means that the booster targets both the most recent omicron subvariants, known as BA.4 and BA.5, as well as the original SARS-CoV-2 strain. We anticipate that UMass Chan will implement a requirement to receive the new COVID-19 booster and will provide additional information as we are able.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 booster recommendations are based on your age, the vaccine you first received and time elapsed since your last dose. People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised have different recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines. Any UMass Chan employee or student who previously received an approved medical or religious COVID-19 vaccine exemption does not need to reapply.

Importantly, if you do not feel well please do not come to campus. Follow the instructions on the UMass Chan coronavirus web page if you test positive for or have symptoms of COVID-19.

In addition, this year UMass Chan is once again requiring all members of our community to receive the annual flu vaccine by Dec. 15. Employee Health Services will be holding flu shot clinics at several locations beginning Monday, Oct. 3. Please click on this link to schedule an appointment. If you receive your flu vaccine elsewhere, follow the instructions below to submit your flu vaccine record.

Steps to Provide Proof of Influenza Vaccination Obtained Elsewhere or to Request an Exemption

Individuals who receive a flu vaccine through services other than Employee or Student Health Services (e.g. physician’s office or pharmacy) must provide proof of immunization to EHS/SHS by Dec. 15, 2022. Proof of immunization may be submitted in one of the following ways:

Email a photo or pdf of your proof of vaccination to employeeflumailbox@umassmemorial.org or StudentHealth@umassmemorial.org 

-OR-

Mail to UMass Memorial Medical Center Employee Health Services, 291 Lincoln Street, Suite 100, Worcester, MA 01605

Individuals who have a medical contraindication to the flu vaccine must complete this form and submit it to employeeflumailbox@umassmemorial.org or studenthealth@umassmemorial.org by Dec. 1, 2022 for their request to be considered. 

Individuals who have concerns about the flu vaccine due to deeply held religious beliefs should contact Matthew Lyford in UMass Chan Human Resources by emailing matthew.lyford@umassmed.edu.

Monkeypox

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Health have published lots of information and data about the monkeypox epidemic. UMass Chan will continue to monitor the spread of monkeypox in MA and on our campus and will update our community as needed.

What is monkeypox?

The monkeypox virus is a relative of the virus that causes smallpox but causes less severe disease. It manifests primarily as a rash with flu-like symptoms and spreads through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, or by contact with items that have been directly exposed to infectious rash or body fluids. Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease. While recent cases have disproportionally affected individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community, anyone can be infected if exposed.

How is monkeypox transmitted?

The virus that causes monkeypox can spread by:

  • direct contact with rash, scabs, or bodily fluids
  • respiratory contact during prolonged face-to-face contact
  • touching items that have come into contact with rash, scabs or bodily fluid of someone infected with monkeypox (e.g., towels, bedding, clothing)

A person with monkeypox may spread virus for several weeks, from the time the rash appears until it is scabbed over and replaced with new skin

How do I know if I have monkeypox?

The most common symptom of monkeypox is a rash which may appear anywhere but most often on face, hands, feet, genital area, or around the anus. The rash may appear as pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy. Some people have multiple lesions, while others may have only one or two.

Other symptoms include:

  • fever and chills
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • exhaustion
  • muscle and body aches
  • headache
  • respiratory symptoms (sore throat, congestion, cough)

How long will monkeypox symptoms last?

Monkeypox symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. If someone has flu-like symptoms, they will usually develop a rash 1-4 days later. The rash may like look pimples or blisters. Anyone with these symptoms must stay home and isolate until evaluated and cleared to return to campus by a healthcare professional. Most people with monkeypox recover fully within 2 to 4 weeks without the need for medical treatment. Individuals at high risk or who have had non-occupational exposure should speak with their personal health care providers and may want to consider the JYNNEOS vaccine

What should I do if I suspect I have monkeypox or have been exposed?

Students with symptoms or likely exposure should contact Student Health Services at 508-334-2818. Students who have been involved in clinical care should also notify Employee Health Services at 508-793-6400. They should isolate at home, wear a mask, and cover any rash when leaving the house for a medical appointment. They should notify staff of suspected monkeypox upon arrival. Testing for monkeypox is available, but it can take several days to receive results.

Thank you for everything you have and continue to do to help keep UMass Chan safe. If you have any questions, please contact OSL at studentlife@umassmed.edu.

Anne Larkin, MD
Vice Provost for Educational Affairs

Alan Acosta, PhD
Assistant Vice Provost for Student Life

Sharone Green, MD
Infection Control Officer


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