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Monkeypox and Travel

Last updated: Aug. 11, 2022

Frequently asked questions about monkeypox and international travel.

What information has Northwestern already shared about monkeypox?

On Aug. 9, Northwestern University sent a communication about the University’s approach to preparation and prevention of the monkeypox virus. 

Where is monkeypox spreading abroad?

Monkeypox is present in most locations worldwide. The CDC is tracking confirmed cases on a map. Currently, Europe is experiencing the highest numbers of cases.

Should I delay or defer travel due to the monkeypox outbreak?

According to the WHO, unless you have signs and symptoms compatible with monkeypox infection, are considered a “suspect, probable or confirmed case by jurisdictional health authorities,” or have been identified as a contact of a monkeypox case and subject to health monitoring, there is no reason to delay or defer travel.

What can I do to limit my exposure to monkeypox during travel?

Based on what we know today, monkeypox currently is spreading primarily through close, personal skin-to-skin contact with someone who has active lesions caused by the virus, or through the sharing of fabrics such as bedding or towels. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. For more information, review guidance from the CDC about social gatherings, safer sex and monkeypox.

 If you are traveling in Central or West Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread monkeypox, such as rodents and primates. Avoid sick or dead animals as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.

If you live in the U.S., have not yet departed for your trip, and believe you are in a group at higher risk of exposure, contact your primary care provider or public health authorities to inquire about accessing pre-exposure vaccination available in your community. In the Chicago area, the Northwestern Medicine Infectious Disease Clinic currently provides vaccinations based on strict guidance from public health authorities about who is now at high risk.

What is the treatment for monkeypox during travel?

The CDC currently recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to a known monkeypox case and those who are deemed to be at increased risk to contract monkeypox. However, the vaccine is not readily available outside the U.S., where supplies remain limited.

Medical professionals in your location can provide details about available treatment options, which may include antiviral and pain relief medication or referral to an infection specialist.

If I am abroad for Northwestern purposes and believe I was exposed to monkeypox, or have symptoms that could be monkeypox, what should I do?

Make an appointment to see a local healthcare provider as soon as possible. Avoid contact with others until you are evaluated.

  • If you are a student or faculty member enrolled in Northwestern’s GeoBlue for Students or GeoBlue for Employees plan, there are numerous ways to connect with a doctor in your area.
  • If you have international health care insurance through a third-party provider, such as Arcadia or IES, or are enrolled in an exchange program that provides you access to a campus health clinic, reach out to your local contact for appointment assistance.
Travelers who contract monkeypox are expected to follow local public health guidance pertaining to quarantine and isolation. The same supportive resources and services that apply to COVID-19 patients, such as assistance with food delivery, are applicable to travelers with monkeypox.

Where can I direct questions about monkeypox in relation to travel?

Contact a healthcare provider for specific or personal questions about monkeypox and travel. Suggestions include contacting:

  • Your primary care provider
  • GeoBlue (or a representative from the health insurance provider associated with your program)
  • A recommended healthcare provider in your community abroad
  • Northwestern Student Health Service

What resources were used to compile this information?