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Monkeypox and kids: As cases rise, should parents worry?

Key Points

  • The CDC reports 13 cases of monkeypox in children aged 10 and under
  • The 2022 monkeypox outbreak is different from previous ones
  • Overall, children are at a lower risk of getting infected with monkeypox
  • Isolate if you see a rash and contact a healthcare provider, according to CDC guidelines

Homework's done? Check. Are lunch boxes packed? Check. Made it to the school bus on time? Check. Getting into the rhythm of back-to-school routines can be pretty stressful. Unfortunately, this year, parents have another concern to deal with — scanning kids for monkeypox rashes.

As of September 9, 2022, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports over 21,800 cases of monkeypox. Of these cases, there are 17 confirmed monkeypox cases in children aged 15 and under. 13 of these cases are in kids 10 years of age and under (CDC data as of August 31, 2022).

The disease is not new, but in the past, cases were mostly restricted to West and Central Africa. However, the 2022 monkeypox outbreak seems to be different from the outbreaks prior.

As a concerned parent, it’s important to stay aware to help protect your loved ones from monkeypox. Here’s what you need to know.

Monkeypox and kids: As cases rise, should parents worry?

Key Points

  • The CDC reports 13 cases of monkeypox in children aged 10 and under
  • The 2022 monkeypox outbreak is different from previous ones
  • Overall, children are at a lower risk of getting infected with monkeypox
  • Isolate if you see a rash and contact a healthcare provider, according to CDC guidelines

Homework's done? Check. Are lunch boxes packed? Check. Made it to the school bus on time? Check. Getting into the rhythm of back-to-school routines can be pretty stressful. Unfortunately, this year, parents have another concern to deal with — scanning kids for monkeypox rashes.

As of September 9, 2022, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports over 21,800 cases of monkeypox. Of these cases, there are 17 confirmed monkeypox cases in children aged 15 and under. 13 of these cases are in kids 10 years of age and under (CDC data as of August 31, 2022).

The disease is not new, but in the past, cases were mostly restricted to West and Central Africa. However, the 2022 monkeypox outbreak seems to be different from the outbreaks prior.

As a concerned parent, it’s important to stay aware to help protect your loved ones from monkeypox. Here’s what you need to know.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus, a close cousin of the smallpox virus.

How does monkeypox spread?

According to the CDC, monkeypox can spread from:

  • Close, skin-to-skin contact with an infected person: This means directly touching a monkeypox rash, scab, or body fluids from someone infected with monkeypox. Hugging or kissing someone with monkeypox or touching their genitals can transmit the disease. Even giving or receiving a massage can spread the disease if one of the individuals involved has monkeypox
  • Direct contact with linens, towels, or other objects used by someone with monkeypox
  • Respiratory secretions, including kissing and prolonged face-to-face contact
  • A pregnant person to their fetus

While monkeypox can spread from person to person, CDC officials say it is not as contagious as COVID-19.

As Dr. Jennifer McQuiston (Incident Commander for the monkeypox response at the CDC ) stated to NPR, “Monkeypox is very different. It's not spread easily. It requires direct, close contact. And most of the cases that we're aware of are associated with intimate contact and even sexual contacts.”

Signs and symptoms of monkeypox

The CDC notes that monkeypox can last 2-4 weeks, with symptoms appearing within 21 days of being exposed to someone with monkeypox.

The CDC describes the first signs of monkeypox as quite generic and flu-like. These may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Back pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills

As the disease progresses, the characteristic monkeypox rash appears 1-4 days later, according to the CDC. Typically, in the past, a monkeypox rash would start on the face and spread to the rest of the body.

However, the strain of monkeypox causing the 2022 outbreak is a little different. Now, as the CDC reports, monkeypox rashes can begin anywhere on the body, including on or near the genitals, and other areas like hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.

What is the risk of monkeypox in children? Should you be worried?

As of August 21, 2022, the CDC advises schools, early care, and education programs that the risk of monkeypox to children and adolescents in the United States is low. Parents need to know that while the overall risk to children is low, kids are at a greater risk of getting more severely ill than adults.

The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) adds that infants, young children under 8, children with eczema and other skin conditions, and children who may be immunocompromised may be at risk of severe disease.

What should you do if your child may have been exposed to monkeypox?

If your child may have been exposed to monkeypox, the CDC recommends that they are monitored for 21 days. This includes taking your child’s temperature daily and performing full-body scans for new rashes (including the inside of the mouth for sores or ulcers), according to the CDC.

If your child develops symptoms, please isolate them and contact a healthcare provider to schedule a consultation, as the CDC advises.

The College of Urgent Care Medicine provides the following guidance: “For those patients who don’t have a primary care provider, Urgent Care centers present a good option. Most suggest you call ahead so proper precautions can be made to bring you back to an exam room promptly and secure a specimen to send to the lab. More labs are now approved by the CDC to provide test results, so turnaround time has improved.”

What does the monkeypox rash look like?

Typically, monkeypox rashes look like pus-filled blisters. However, monkeypox rashes, bumps, and blisters can be confused with chickenpox, syphilis, medication-related allergies, and other conditions. Plus, as the Cleveland Clinic notes, not everyone who gets monkeypox develops the characteristic rash.

How do you know for sure if you or your child has monkeypox?

“The only way to determine if a rash is caused by monkeypox infection is with testing,” said Christopher Chao, MD, President of the College of Urgent Care Medicine. “At present time, testing is only applicable if a rash is present. There are currently no blood tests for testing a child who may be exposed. The CUCM recommends that if you have concerns, please contact your healthcare provider, or seek consultation at an Urgent Care center.”

How is monkeypox treated?

Monkeypox is considered a self-limiting disease. This means, in most cases, people can get better without treatment. However, as the World Health Organization (WHO) states, severe cases occur primarily in young children. WHO adds that people or children who have compromised immunity are also at a higher risk.

The FDA-approved smallpox drug Tecovirimat (TPOXX) is authorized for use in people (including children) who are severely ill, or are more likely to get severely ill. While there are low supplies of TPOXX nationally, an urgent care provider can help you get access to TPOXX if deemed necessary.

Is there a monkeypox vaccine available for kids? How do you get the monkeypox vaccine?

According to the CDC, two vaccines may be used to help prevent the spread of monkeypox:

  • JYNNEOS is approved to prevent smallpox and monkeypox
  • ACAM2000 is approved for use against smallpox and can now be used to prevent monkeypox under an Expanded Access Investigational New Drug (EA-IND) protocol.

For now, the CDC advises monkeypox vaccines for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and people who are more likely to get monkeypox. If you believe you or your child may be exposed to monkeypox or at a high risk of getting infected, Solv can help you find an urgent care provider.

How can you protect your kids from monkeypox?

Most schools and daycare facilities may already have increased hygiene and sanitation practices due to COVID-19. These protocols can help minimize the risk of monkeypox in educational facilities.

The CDC recommends three steps to protect against monkeypox:

  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with people who may have a rash that looks like monkeypox
  • Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person may have used
  • Wash your hands often

If you’re a parent with young kids, you may be shaking your head, wondering how to get kids to avoid touching rashes or certain surfaces. Dr. Rob Rohatsch advises, “Do what you can based on how old your kids are. Older kids may be better equipped to follow detailed safety guidelines. Younger kids can still learn to wash their hands well. And, if you know of an adult with monkeypox, keep your kids away from them until they recover fully. Parents can also advise kids to stay away from rodents, and sick or dead animals.”

If someone in your household has monkeypox, the UCA recommends that the infected person follows the guidelines below to prevent the spread to other family members:

  • Stay home except for medical care/emergencies
  • Limit visitors and avoid close contact with others, including pets
  • Use a separate bathroom
  • Avoid using contact lenses/shaving/sharing utensils
  • Cover all rashes until the scabs fall off. You are contagious until your scabs fall off, as the CDC indicates.

What’s important for parents right now is not to panic, but stay aware of cases in your state and county, and follow basic hygiene protocols. When in doubt, or if you find a rash, bumps, or blisters, reach out to an urgent care center, immediately.

Disclaimers

The content provided here and elsewhere on the Solv Health site or mobile app is provided for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as, and Solv Health, Inc. does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always contact your healthcare provider directly with any questions you may have regarding your health or specific medical advice.

The views expressed by authors and contributors of such content are not endorsed or approved by Solv Health and are intended for informational purposes only. The content is reviewed by Solv Health only to confirm educational value and reader interest. You are encouraged to discuss any questions that you may have about your health with your healthcare provider.

Sources

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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