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Should parents be concerned about monkeypox in schools? What experts say

The Charlotte Observer logo The Charlotte Observer 8/10/2022 Moira Ritter, The Charlotte Observer

Monkeypox cases are on the rise.

As of Aug. 10, the Centers for Disease Control reported 9,493 confirmed cases in the United States, which declared the virus a public health emergency Aug. 4.

That’s up from mid-July, when only about 1,000 cases were confirmed nationwide, McClatchy News reported.

While the virus is spreading, children across the country are preparing to head back to their classrooms for the new school year.

Should parents be concerned by the potential of outbreaks in schools? Here’s what experts say they should know.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease that comes from the same family of viruses as smallpox, according to the CDC. It is not related to chickenpox.

The disease’s symptoms include a rash, fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion and respiratory symptoms which typically appear within three weeks of exposure. Symptoms last between two and four weeks, the CDC says.

There are two strains of monkeypox. The less severe strain is what is spreading across the United States right now, according to Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.

“Most people are getting a bad rash, it’s painful, goes away. No one’s died,” Esper told McClatchy News.

The virus is spread through direct contact with monkeypox rashes, scabs or with a person who is infected.

“It’s not like the Coronavirus, which we’ve been dealing with, where you can just walk by someone in the hallway and you can get infected that way,” Esper said. “This really requires you to be exposed with someone who has a bad rash, and for your skin to come into contact with their skin.”

Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease. While the virus is spreading most rapidly among men who have sex with men, a group that includes people who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender and nonbinary, anyone who comes into contact with someone who has the infection is susceptible to getting sick, experts say.

“It is not exclusive to that community in that anybody can get monkeypox. . . . Its just comes from prolonged skin skin contact,” Esper said.

Video: How monkeypox spreads (The Washington Post)


Monkeypox in kids

The CDC has reported two cases of monkeypox in children in the United States. Both cases were reported July 22 and appear to be the result of household spread, CNN reported.

There is potential for it to spread among children , Esper said.

“I don’t think anybody’s gonna say that it’s zero. But the majority of the people that we’re identifying with monkeypox are adults.”

The United States will likely identify more cases of monkeypox in children as the virus continues to spread, but the risk of a child getting sick is situational, according to Dr. Ishminder Kaur, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics in the division of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“We will likely learn more cases, but they will be in the context of exposure to somebody or travel to a community where there are higher rates of infection,” Kaur told McClatchy News. “It’s not an infection that spreads very easily from everything that we know so far.”

For children who are exposed and develop the virus, Kaur says, there might be some factors that make children at higher risk for severe symptoms.

“It does tend to be a risk of higher severity in children under eight years of age. And then also children who have skin problems, like eczema. They tend to have a more severe disease.”

Back-to-school and monkeypox

As students head back into the classroom for the new school year, there is some fear that close proximity could be a breeding ground for monkeypox outbreaks. Experts say this really is not likely.

In order for monkeypox to spread, there must be physical contact with a person who is infected. The contact that happens within the classroom is considered “close contact,” which does not meet the transmission standard, according to Dr. Esper.

“It really has to be skin on skin,” Esper said. “It’s not something that I would expect to see — transmission from a typical type of school encounter. So I’m not as worried about that.”

Unlike COVID-19, which is spread by contact with droplets and particles from a person infected with the virus, monkeypox requires physical, skin-to-skin or skin-to-rash contact.

While this kind of contact and transmission is unlikely in a classroom setting, to avoid potential outbreaks, parents should stay vigilant this school year, monitoring their children for rashes and visiting their pediatrician if they notice anything unusual, Kaur said.

“If we’re being careful as parents and not sending our children to school if they have rashes until we figure out what the rash is and take care of that infectious process or non infectious process, the overall risk in children and in return to school school settings is low at this time.”

How does monkeypox spread? What you need to know as US cases rise

Monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency in US. Here’s what that means

What does monkeypox feel like? Here’s what those who’ve had painful symptoms say

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