Cases of monkeypox are on the rise.
As of August 10, the Centers for Disease Control has reported 9,493 confirmed cases in the United States, which declared the virus a public health emergency on August 4.
That’s up from mid-July, when only about 1,000 cases were confirmed nationwide, McClatchy News reported.
As the virus spreads, children across the country are preparing to return to their classrooms for the new school year.
Should parents be worried about the potential for outbreaks in schools? Here’s what the experts say they should know.
What is monkey pox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease that comes from the same virus family as smallpox, according to the CDC. It’s not related to chickenpox.
Symptoms of the disease include rash, fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, and respiratory symptoms that usually appear within three weeks of exposure. Symptoms last between two and four weeks, according to the CDC.
There are two strains of monkeypox. The least serious strain is the one currently spreading in the United States, according to Dr. Frank Esper, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.
“Most people get a bad rash, it’s painful, it goes away. No one died,” Esper told McClatchy News.
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with rashes, scabs, or with an infected person.
“It’s not like the coronavirus, which we’ve been dealing with, where you can just walk past someone in the hallway and you can get infected that way,” Esper said. “It really requires you to be exposed to someone with a bad rash and your skin coming into contact with their skin.”
Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease. While the virus is spreading fastest among men who have sex with men, a group that includes people who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender and non-binary, anyone who comes into contact with an infected person is likely to get sick, experts say.
“It’s not exclusive to this community in that anyone can get monkeypox. . . . It just comes from prolonged skin contact,” Esper said.
Monkeypox in children
The CDC has reported two cases of monkeypox in children in the United States. Both cases were reported on July 22 and appear to be the result of household spread, CNN reported.
It’s possible it’s spreading among children, Esper said.
“I don’t think anyone will say it’s zero. But the majority of people we identify 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 becoming ill is situational, according to Dr. Ishminder Kaur, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at the division. infectious diseases at university. David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
“We will likely learn of more cases, but they will be in the context of exposure to someone or travel to a community where infection rates are higher,” Kaur told McClatchy News. “It’s not an infection that spreads very easily from anything we know so far.”
For children who are exposed and develop the virus, Kaur says, there could be certain factors that put children at higher risk for severe symptoms.
“It tends to be a higher severity risk in children under the age of eight. And then also children who have skin problems, such as eczema. They tend to have more serious disease.
Back to school and monkeypox
As students head back to class for the new school year, there are fears the proximity could be breeding ground for outbreaks of monkeypox. Experts say that’s really not likely.
For monkeypox to spread, there must be physical contact with an infected person. Contact that occurs in the classroom is considered “close contact,” which does not meet the transmission standard, according to Dr. Esper.
“It really has to be skin-to-skin,” Esper said. “It’s not something I would expect to see – the transmission of a typical type of dating at school. So I’m not as worried about it.
Unlike COVID-19, which is transmitted through contact with droplets and particles from someone infected with the virus, monkeypox requires physical contact, either skin-to-skin or skin-to-rash.
Although this type of contact and transmission is unlikely in a classroom, to avoid potential outbreaks parents should remain vigilant this school year, monitor their children for rashes, and visit their pediatrician if they notice something unusual,” Kaur said.
“If we are careful as parents and do not send our children to school if they have rashes until we find out what it is and take care of this infectious process or non-infectious, the overall risk in children and when returning to school the school environment is low at this time.