- The CDC reports more than 9,400 cases of monkeypox in the United States.
- The World Health Organization said that children are more likely than adults to develop serious diseases.
- Monkeypox symptoms usually begin within three weeks of exposure and can include fever and rash.
As monkeypox cases rise in the United States and children prepare to go back to school, some parents worry that the outbreak could reach their little ones in the classroom.
On Friday, Illinois health officials announced that dozens of children may have been exposed to the monkeypox virus after a childcare worker tested positive outside Champaign, Illinois. No other cases have been reported at the facility, but all adults and children were screened, according to a statement.
As of August 3, there were only two pediatric infections of the more than 9,400 cases of monkeypox reported in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here’s everything parents need to know about the virus and what to do if their child becomes infected.
Can children get monkey pox?
The vast majority of cases have occurred in adult men who have sex with men, experts say, but there are signs the virus could branch out beyond this community.
It’s possible, and even expected, to see infections in children, health experts say. But it won’t be as common as other viruses.
“We don’t expect daycare centers and schools to see rampant monkeypox infections in children,” said Dr. Ibukan Kalu, assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke School of Medicine and medical director of pediatric infection prevention at Duke University Medical Center. “But it’s possible for children to get infected.”
The World Health Organization and CDC said children are more prone to developing serious diseases or complications from monkeypox compared to teens and adults, especially children under the age of 8.
Monkeypox Symptoms In Children
Monkeypox symptoms usually begin within three weeks of exposure, according to the CDC. They include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, muscle and back pain, headache, respiratory symptoms and rash, according to the CDC.
During the current adult outbreak, the rash is often located on or near the genitals or anus, but it can also appear on other areas, such as the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth. Some people experience flu-like symptoms and then get a rash one to four days later. Others see the rash first and then start to feel sick, or just get a rash.
What does a monkeypox rash look like?
Children get a lot of rashes, health experts say, so it’s important for parents to see a health care provider if a rash appears on their child.
Some monkeypox rashes may resemble other viruses or skin conditions such as chickenpox, hand, foot and mouth disease, herpes, measles, or an allergic skin reaction such as eczema.
Kalu advises parents to take a picture of the rash and watch its progression. If it looks the same and doesn’t get worse or start to scab, “it’s highly unlikely it’s monkey pox.”
The child’s rash is also unlikely to be monkey pox if there is no known exposure, or prolonged skin-to-skin contact with a person with a confirmed case.
“That can happen in daycare, it’s just not that common,” Kalu said. “It usually means that there has been exposure to a household, or that there is a person in the household who has been diagnosed with monkeypox and who has looked after the child and had prolonged skin-to-skin contact.”
Even if a child goes to the pediatrician with a fever and a rash, they probably won’t be tested for monkeypox without known exposure, said Dr. Allison Bartlett, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital.
What to do if your child has monkey pox?
Guidelines issued by the CDC recommend that children with monkeypox be closely monitored during their illness.
Like isolation measures related to COVID-19, children infected with monkey pox should avoid contact with uninfected people and pets until the rash has cleared, the scabs have fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed.
During isolation, the CDC recommends that lesions be covered to prevent children from scratching them and touching their eyes.
“If there was a true smallpox lesion on the eye, you could have inflammation and scarring, and it could affect your vision,” Bartlett said.
Caregivers should cover areas of damaged skin with bandages and avoid skin-to-skin contact with the infected child. They should also wear disposable gloves when changing bandages and clothing that covers the child’s rash.
Can children be vaccinated against monkey pox?
The monkeypox vaccine Jynneos is approved for emergency use and may be recommended for children under the age of 18 who have been exposed to monkeypox.
Tecovirimat, sold under the brand name Tpoxx, is also available to treat children at high risk for severe monkeypox, including children under age 8, who are immunocompromised or have a history of skin conditions.
But health experts say children are more likely to develop other rash-causing diseases, such as chickenpox and measles, than the monkeypox virus, and advise parents to keep up to date with their child’s vaccination schedule.
“There are other vaccine-preventable infections that can cause fever and rashes, and this is a good time to make sure your child is up to date on all routine vaccines,” Kalu said.
While it’s possible for children to catch monkeypox at home, Bartlett said, she’s “not at all concerned about transmission” in schools.
“It could become a problem, so it’s something to be aware of, but it’s not something we need to worry too much about for individual kids in schools right now.”
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
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