Mpox: What To Know

Formerly called "monkeypox"

Cornell Health is now using the preferred term "mpox" to reduce stigma associated with the term "monkeypox." This change is in alignment with guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

    About mpox

    Mpox is a rare disease caused by infection with the mpox virus. Symptoms are similar to those of smallpox, but milder, and mpox is rarely fatal. Read more from the CDC about mpox.

    What are the symptoms?

    • Mpox often begins with the experience of flu-like symptoms (fever, muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, respiratory symptoms). These symptoms are often followed by a rash or sores (usually painful) that can look like pimples or blisters. (See examples of mpox rash.)
    • You may experience all or only a few symptoms.
      • Sometimes people have flu-like symptoms before the rash.
      • Some people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms.
      • Others only experience a rash.
    • Symptoms usually start within two weeks of exposure to the virus, but can occur up to three weeks later. The illness is usually mild, although can be painful and result in permanent scarring. Severe cases may occur in young children, pregnant people, or people with suppressed immune systems (including those with HIV).  

    How is it spread?

    The most common route of transmission, according to the CDC, is direct physical contact with mpox rash, sores, or scabs (often through sexual and other close / intimate touch).  

    Other routes of transmission include:

    • Contact with objects or fabrics (e.g., clothing, bedding, or towels) that have been used by someone with mpox
    • Through respiratory droplets or oral fluids (e.g., saliva) shared during kissing or other prolonged face-to-face contact

    Who is at risk?

    Depending on behavior, anyone in close contact with someone who has mpox could become infected. (See "How is it spread?" above.)

    Public health data indicate that during this current outbreak, some populations are being infected by mpox more than others. [See Epidemiologic and Clinical Characteristics of Monkeypox Cases.] However, transmission is a function of behavior, not identities. (See "How is it spread?" above.) Vaccination is being prioritized for individuals at the highest risk (see vaccination information below).

    Vaccination

    Mpox vaccine (Jynneos) is now available to eligible students at Cornell Health. Vaccine supply is limited; please call us for availability and to schedule an appointment: 607-255-5155

    Vaccination can help reduce the likelihood of contracting mpox. Read more about mpox vaccines from the CDC

    Who is eligible for vaccine?

    According to the NY State Department of Health, statewide eligibility currently includes the following New Yorkers:

    • Any individual that may be at risk of future exposure to infection with mpox, even though they are not at high risk of a recent exposure to mpox.
    • Individuals with recent exposure to a suspected or confirmed mpox case within the past 14 days.
    • Those at high risk of a recent exposure to mpox, including gay men and members of the bisexual, transgender, and gender non-conforming community and other communities of men who have sex with men and who have engaged in intimate or skin-to-skin contact with others in the past 14 days.
    • Individuals who have had skin-to-skin contact with someone in a social network experiencing mpox activity, including men who have sex with men who meet partners through an online website, digital application ("app"), or social event, such as a bar or party.
    • People identified by a local health department as exposed to a suspected or confirmed case of mpox in the past 14 days should work directly with their local health department and health care provider to discuss obtaining the mpox vaccine.

    Refer to the NYS Department of Health's website for the most current eligibility information.

    Where can I get vaccinated?

    Mpox vaccine (Jynneos) is now available to eligible students at Cornell Health. Vaccine supply is limited; please call us for availability and to schedule an appointment: 607-255-5155.

    Vaccination is also available locally, in limited supply, for high-risk Tompkins County residents. Call the Tompkins County Health Department at 607-274-6600 to learn about availability and to schedule an appointment.  

    How can I get vaccine text alerts?

    Vaccine supply and eligibility are expected to increase in the months ahead.

    SIGN UP to receive mpox vaccine updates by text: NY State residents can sign up for mpox text alerts by texting “MONKEYPOX” to 81336 (or “MONKEYPOXESP” for text alerts in Spanish). By providing your zip code, residents of NY can also opt-in for location-based messages, which may include information on vaccines and care in your area.

    For additional information about mpox vaccine supply, visit the NYS Department of Health's website.

    Prevention

    Given that the mpox vaccine supply is still limited, you can reduce the chance of acquiring or spreading the virus when you: 

    • Limit the number of close / intimate contacts and follow additional safer sex tips provided by the CDC
    • Avoid sharing personal items and objects, towels, bedding, clothing
    • Request medical evaluation and testing if symptoms arise
    • Follow isolation instructions if provided by your healthcare provider
    • Get vaccinated [if eligible] when vaccine is available   

    Evaluation & Testing

    Cornell Health is partnering with the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) to test, identify needs for isolation, and treat students with symptoms of mpox. 

    What happens at Cornell Health?

    Your healthcare provider can evaluate your symptoms and will decide if testing is needed. Testing consists of swabbing a sore/lesion and results can take 3-5 days to be processed. If you have a skin rash (sores/blisters) that might suggest mpox, please make an appointment to be seen: 607-255-5155.

    Students outside of Ithaca: See information below for students at Cornell Tech and Cornell in Washington.  

    Should I get tested if I had close contact with someone who has mpox?

    It depends. If you have been identified as a "close contact" of someone who has mpox, our local health department will remain in contact with you and monitor your health. If symptoms appear, please call Cornell Health [607-255-5155] to consult with a healthcare provider. Note: Symptoms usually start within two weeks of exposure to the virus, but can occur up to three weeks later.

    Isolation & Public Health Precautions

    Mpox is highly transmissible in some situations (see above). Each person with a confirmed case of mpox, as well as those awaiting test results, will receive individualized clinically-appropriate guidance to help prevent viral spread. The CDC recommends that people with mpox isolate (at home or at another location) for the duration of illness, but that might not be possible in all situations. Prioritizing isolation and source control strategies helps prevent transmission while balancing the impact of the infection on the daily lives of those who have it. Cornell Health will therefore provide personalized clinical guidance to each person with confirmed mpox.

    What can I expect?

    Public health precautions, including isolation, are different for mpox than they are for COVID-19. As you await your mpox test results, and/or if you test positive, Cornell Health will provide you with specific information to help you prioritize your wellbeing, and the health of others.

    • After testing (typically 3-5 days):
      • Your healthcare provider will give you individualized guidance while you await results. Guidance will depend on your living situation, your symptoms, and your daily activities, to help you reduce any possible viral transmission risk. Students living in university-owned housing may be temporarily relocated to private rooms, when available. During this time, it is important that you avoid social interactions, gyms, and other activities that could involve close contact with others.
    • Until healed (typically 2-4 weeks):
      • If your test comes back positive, you will need to adhere to clinically-appropriate prevention guidance for two to four weeks. The length of time depends upon how long it takes your body to heal from the infection. Full healing typically means that any scabs have fallen off your sores and that your rash has formed a fresh layer of skin.

    Students will receive a secure message from Cornell Health with instructions for based on current guidance from the Tompkins County Health Department. Information about temporary academic accommodations, when needed, will come directly from Student Disability Services (SDS)

    See "Can I go to class or do other activities?" below, for more detail.

    What should I pack / manage if I need to leave my room / suite to keep others safe?

    If you'll be moving into university-provided private housing, don't forget to pack these essentials!

    • Clothing (clean): Enough clean clothing (e.g., loungewear, comfortable clothes) for two-weeks. Note: laundry services will be provided for students placed in university-provided private housing.

    • Dirty bedding, towels, & clothing (yes, really!): Due to the risk of transmitting mpox in your room/suite, you will be asked to gather your dirty laundry and your bedding and towels (currently in use) and place these items in large plastic bags. Leave the filled bags on your bed while you go to your private isolation space. If your test is positive, these items will be professionally laundered and returned to you.

    • Toiletries: Toothbrush/toothpaste, soap/body wash, shampoo and hair care, skin care products, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, eye care, etc.

    • Health-related supplies: masks / face coverings, gloves (to clean any shared bathroom spaces or cover sores), prescription medications (include at least two weeks' worth, non-prescription medications and supplies (e.g., Tylenol or ibuprofen, thermometer), glasses and/or contact lenses and solution

    • Snacks: snacks and beverages you might want for in between meals
    • Comfort items: robe, slippers, favorite pillow, journal

    • Academic materials: any class materials, readings, or textbooks

    • Electronics: phone and phone charger, computer and computer charger

    • Entertainment: yoga mat, gaming items, books or magazines to read for fun

    • Personal documents: wallet, license, photo ID, student ID card, health insurance card

    Where do students stay?

    • Students residing in university housing may be provided with a private room in which to stay until test results are available. Students who test positive will either continue staying in this private room or – depending on the availability of housing at the time – be moved to a space with others who have tested positive until symptoms resolve. You will receive an email from the Cornell Campus Public Health Support Team with detailed instructions.
    • Students residing in off-campus housing will generally remain in their residence, while following CDC guidance for Preventing Monkeypox Spread in Congregate Housing

    What should I do if I live in shared (non-university) housing?

    Follow this CDC guidance for Preventing Monkeypox Spread in Congregate Housing, including:

    • While symptomatic with a fever or any respiratory symptoms, remain isolated unless it is necessary to see a healthcare provider or for an emergency. This includes avoiding close or physical contact with other people and animals.
    • If you do not have a fever or any respiratory symptoms AND you can fully cover your rash or lesions with a bandage or gloves, you may leave your isolation space to go to class as long as you follow this guidance: 
      • Use a clean bandage and/or gloves to fully cover your lesions/rash.
      • Wear clean clothing and a well-fitting mask and avoid close face-to-face contact.
      • Avoid public transportation.
      • Avoid close physical, intimate, or sexual contact.
      • Avoid sharing utensils, cups, or other personal items.

    How do I get food?

    It depends: Follow any specific instructions provided to you by Cornell Health based on your symptoms and circumstances. 

    • If you are in a university-provided space: If you have a meal plan, food can be delivered to you through Cornell Dining’s City Bucks program. You will receive a credit sufficient for three meals per day. Call the Cornell Campus Public Health Support Line (607-253-7500) if you have special concerns or questions.
    • If you are in a private (non-university) residence: If you have been asked to stay put and you live with others, kindly request that they bring groceries or meals to you. Otherwise, order food and have it delivered to your home, but do not interact directly with individuals delivering the food. 

    Can I go to class or do other activities?

    It depends. Generally speaking, the CDC advises people with mpox to isolate from others for the full duration of symptoms, which typically lasts two to four weeks, as mpox can be spread from the time symptoms begin until all symptoms have resolved, including full healing of the rash with formation of a fresh layer of skin. However, your healthcare provider will give you individualized guidance.

    • IF you do not have a fever or any respiratory symptoms AND you can fully cover your rash or lesions with a bandage or gloves, your healthcare provider may approve limited breaks. In these cases, you may leave your designated space to attend class/lab (and therefore will not need a formal academic accommodation) while following Isolation and Prevention Practices from the CDC to reduce viral transmission:
      • fully cover your rash or sores with a clean bandage and clean clothing
      • wear a well-fitting mask and avoid face-to-face contact
      • wear gloves [if sores / blisters are on your hands]
      • avoid public transportation
      • avoid close physical contact, or intimate contact, social gatherings, PE classes, athletics, etc.
      • minimize time out of isolation 
         
    • If you are symptomatic with a fever or any respiratory symptoms, including sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough, you remain isolated unless it is necessary to see a healthcare provider or for an emergency. This includes avoiding close or physical contact with other people and animals.
      • Students who must remain in isolation can work with Student Disability Services (SDS) and their academic program to arrange for temporary academic accommodations that allow them to continue their studies while remaining in isolation, whenever feasible. Due to the variability of student academic engagement, there may be some instances when a reduced course load or a Health Leave of Absence (HLOA) becomes necessary.
      • Students may also need a temporary academic accommodation if they have other symptoms that would interfere with their academics (e.g., significant pain). 

    How do I let professors know if I can't attend class or lab?

    Cornell Health​'s Student Disability Services (SDS) staff and medical clinicians will work with students, their academic programs, and the Tompkins County Health Department to minimize the impact on a student's studies while they recover from infection. 

    Students will be granted permission to attend class if it is safe to do so.

    When this is not possible, SDS will recommend temporary accommodations intended to support students' academic continuity. However, depending on the circumstances, some students may need to withdraw from a class or take a Health Leave of Absence if they are unable to attend their class(es) for an extended period. 

    When academic accommodations are necessary, SDS will notify you and your academic instructors of your approved 14-day accommodations via email.

    What if my symptoms worsen?

    Students with mpox who develop worsening or concerning symptoms should call Cornell Health 24/7 at 607-255-5155 to consult. 

    How can I support my mental health while I recover?

    • Visit Mental Health at Cornell for ways to stay connected and support your well-being.

    • Call Cornell Health 24/7 (607-255-5155) to speak with a licensed therapist from our on-call service.

    • Consult informally with a CAPS counselor online through Let’s Talk.

    • Connect with someone now through one of the recommended 24/7 hotlines or textlines, including options especially for students of color and LGBTQ students.

    Treatment

    Antiviral medications may be appropriate to treat mpox symptoms. Where available, vaccination can reduce the chance and severity of infection in those who have been exposed. They may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, like patients with weakened immune systems. Read more from the CDC about treatment for mpox.

    Medical support for students on the Ithaca or Geneva campus

    Students can call Cornell Health 24/7 to consult with a medical provider: 607-255-5155

    Medical support for students at Cornell Tech or Cornell in Washington

    If you develop symptoms, guidance will be coming from your local health department. You will likely be directed to a healthcare provider in your local area to assist with medical evaluation and testing options.

    Other support  

    The emergence of a new illness in our community can be stressful, especially at the beginning of the academic year when students may be sharing spaces with new roommates, suitemates, teammates, and other peers. Resources for stress management and connection with mental health support are available on the Mental Health at Cornell website. In addition to campus resources, anonymous 24/7 talk, text, and chat lines are available to students, including resources specifically for students of color and students who identify as LGBTQI+.  
     

    Employee Guidance

    Health Care, Testing, and Isolation

    Where should employees go for care and testing?

    Employees who are concerned about their risk or are concerned they may be experiencing symptoms consistent with mpox should contact their primary care provider.

    How will an employee be informed if they are a close contact?

    Public health departments lead case investigations and will notify individuals if they are considered a close contact of an individual who has tested positive. 

    What is my risk of getting mpox at work?

    Mpox is transmitted through close and extended personal contact, often skin-to-skin contact; the risk of surface or fomite transmission in personal workspaces appears low. The CDC considers the risk of transmission to be low unless any of the following apply:

    • Being within 6 feet for a total of 3 hours or more (cumulative) of a person with mpox who was not wearing a surgical mask or respirator -OR-
    • Contact between an individual’s intact skin with the skin lesions or bodily fluids from a person with mpox -OR
    • Contact between an individual’s intact skin with materials (e.g., linens, clothing) that have contacted the skin lesions or bodily fluids from a person with mpox without having been disinfected or laundered -OR-
    • Contact between an individual’s clothing with the person with mpox’s skin lesions or bodily fluids, or their soiled linens or dressings (e.g., during turning, bathing, or assisting with patient transfer)

    If an employee is isolated for mpox, do colleagues in the office, class, lab or shared workspace also need to isolate?

    No, unless a public health department instructs you to isolate, you are free to go about your daily routine. If you were identified as a close contact, follow the instruction of the health department, monitor yourself for symptoms, and seek testing from your healthcare provider if you become symptomatic. Persons who believe they may have been a close contact but were not contacted by the health department should monitor themselves for symptoms and seek testing from their healthcare provider.

    How does mpox spread?

    Mpox spreads through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:

    • Direct contact with mpox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with mpox.
    • Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with mpox.
    • Contact with respiratory secretions.

    For more information on how mpox spreads visit the CDC website.

    Do employees need to isolate if they have been in close contact with a possible or confirmed case of mpox?

    At this time, CDC guidance states that individuals exposed to mpox virus can continue their routine daily activities (e.g., go to work or school) as long as they do not have signs or symptoms consistent with mpox. Anyone with an exposure to people or animals with mpox should monitor their health or be monitored for signs or symptoms for 21 days after exposure. Employees are encouraged to contact their primary care provider for a risk-assessment to determine the appropriate steps to take. 

    What does an employee need to do if they are symptomatic?

    Employees who are experiencing symptoms consistent with mpox, should contact their primary care provider as soon as possible to determine the appropriate steps to take. If you do not feel well enough to work, or if your primary care provider suggests staying home, regular time off options apply.

    What should an employee do if they are told to isolate?

    If an employee is ordered to isolate, or to stay home until test results are known, they should communicate with their supervisor and college or unit HR representative if their work will be impacted by the isolation order. 

    Is the mpox vaccine available to employees?

    Vaccination can help reduce the likelihood of contracting mpox. Read more about mpox vaccines from the CDC. Vaccine supply is currently limited. Vaccination is not yet widely available at Cornell or in Tompkins County. At this time, vaccine supply is being allocated through the federal government to New York counties with the highest number of confirmed cases and only for those at high risk of infection. Vaccine supply and eligibility may increase in the months ahead. For the most current information, visit the NYS Department of Health's website.

    If an employee gets sick, what is their health care coverage?

    An employee’s health insurance expenses for mpox should be submitted under the usual health insurance coverage procedures, including prescriptions and other treatment. All health care plan provisions, including medical necessity, in-network vs. out-of-network coverage, deductibles, co-payments, and out-of-pocket expenses will apply as with any claims submission.

    I do not work in Tompkins County or New York state. Do I follow the Cornell guidelines or those of the county/state I work and live in?

    Employees who work outside Tompkins County or New York state should monitor guidance offered by their local or state health department to understand any local restrictions. Employees should also connect with their supervisor and college or unit HR representative if they experience any symptoms or have to undergo isolation.

    If an employee’s dependent is isolated from school/childcare what does that mean for an employee?

    Employees who care for a dependent who is isolated due to mpox should speak with their supervisor to determine if their job responsibilities allow for them to work remotely. They may be eligible for time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Further, staff members may be covered by NYS Paid Family Leave. More information on various leave programs is available on the Leaves and Disability webpage or by contacting Medical Leaves Administration at wcds@cornell.edu or 607-255-1177 to determine the appropriate leave for an employee’s situation and needs.

    How will an employee know if they’re a close contact of a student who tested positive in their class or lab?

    The Tompkins County Health Department (or appropriate local county health department for employees not living in Tompkins County), will notify individuals if they are a close or intimate contact of an individual who has tested positive. See also, ‘What is my risk of getting mpox at work?’ and ‘How does mpox spread?’

    What cleaning products are used on campus and are effective against mpox?

    Cornell’s Building Care Department uses Diversey™ Alpha-HP® and Oxivir® 1 solution and wipes to maintain a clean campus. Both products are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for mpox disinfection. A full list of EPA’s approved mpox disinfectants can be found here: EPA’s Disinfectants for Emerging Viral Pathogens: List Q which includes the mpox and SARS-CoV-2 viruses.

    What is the university doing to prevent fomite transmission of illnesses?

    Mpox spreads through close, personal, and often skin-to-skin contact (CDC). Cornell will continue to monitor new and emerging information to ensure practices are evidence-based and keep employees safe. Cornell’s Building Care Department continues to focus on cleaning high touch points in atriums, entryways, restrooms, and other common areas during the course of their work. Our Building Care teams maintain disinfection stations in the atriums of academic, library, and residential hall buildings. Departments should continue to make cleaning supplies available to all employees, including office hoteling spaces. Please reference EPA’s Disinfectants for Emerging Viral Pathogens: List Q for effective products.

    Is Cornell cleaning personal work and office spaces after a confirmed case of mpox has been identified on campus?

    At this time, personal work and office spaces will not be cleaned by Facilities Management following a confirmed case. Current resources will be utilized to keep high touchpoints in atriums, entryways, restrooms, and other common areas cleaned regularly. Mpox spreads through close, personal, and often skin-to-skin contact (CDC) and the risk of fomite transmission in personal workspaces appears low. Cornell will continue to monitor new and emerging information to ensure practices are evidence-based and keep employees safe. Departments should continue to make cleaning supplies available to their employees for those who wish to periodically clean their work areas. 

    Support

    What resources and support are available for employees?

    Contact the Faculty & Staff Assistance Program at 607-255-2673 or ENI Confidential Counseling Services at 800-327-2255 for help with feelings of stress or anxiety about these events. Both health plans — contract college and endowed — include coverage for mental health.

    For questions regarding workplace safety email ASKEHS@cornell.edu.  

    For questions regarding leave programs contact Medical Leaves Administration at wcds@cornell.edu or 607-255-1177.