Are daycares and K-12 schools are locations of concern when it comes to monkeypox?
The overall risk for MPV in children remains low. Only five pediatric cases have been confirmed in the United States out of 7,510 (<0.07% of all cases). There was a day care center employee in Illinois last week that tested positive for MPV, and the children were subsequently offered the Jynneos vaccine as a prevention measure, but none of the children have shown any symptoms of monkeypox.
Because of the way MPV spreads, it requires very close contact with skin, lesions, respiratory droplets, or clothing/bedding containing infectious virus from skin lesions. So MPV is not spread via casual person to person contact. According to recent data from the WHO, 91.4% of cases have been linked to sexual contact:
Although the risk is low, it does not hurt for schools to educate students. We are dealing with two outbreaks at once (MPV and COVID-19) so it is important that both parents and teachers reinforce the messages of giving people their space, not touching someone else’s skin or “keeping our bodies to ourselves” with the younger kids.
How can kids get monkeypox in these settings?
As mentioned above, MPV spreads via close contact and mostly from sexual contact in the current outbreak. However, MPV could potentially spread at school by touching someone’s rash/lesions, exchanging body fluids via kissing or prolonged face to face contact, hugging, etc. So, it’s best (for MPV and for COVID-19 reasons) to emphasize giving each other space in the classroom and not touching one another.
What about universities?
The reason that MPV has gained a foothold in the community of men who have sex with men is primarily because of the interconnected social and sexual networks that exist within it. So, it could be possible for a monkeypox outbreak to occur in other communities like college campuses, where social/sexual networks also exist, along with athletics that require close contact. It is important that colleges and universities are prepared to provide public health education/information about monkeypox to students, have testing/medical resources available to if students develop symptoms, and have an isolation protocol ready.
What would I tell parents who are worried about monkeypox and going back to school?
I would reinforce that this is not COVID-19. It spreads very differently and is nowhere near as contagious. If your child develops symptoms, definitely see a health care provider before sending the child back to school. Infants, young children (under 8 years of age), children with eczema and other skin conditions and children with immunocompromising conditions may be at increased risk of severe disease when they contract monkeypox, so parents of these children should be aware of that and speak to their health care provider.