(NEXSTAR) – With monkeypox reaching all 50 U.S. states around the same time that public schools are opening their doors for a new school year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is offering new guidance for parents, teachers and administrators.
In a recently-released “frequently asked questions” update, the CDC said that at this point, schools don’t need to do anything beyond what they would to prevent the transmission of any infectious disease.
“At this time, the risk of monkeypox to children and adolescents in the United States is low,” the CDC said. “In this outbreak, most cases of monkeypox have been associated with sexual contact.”
The CDC adds that, in the current global outbreak, monkeypox has rarely been life-threatening in children, who make up a small minority of cases.
Transmission of monkeypox among children is not unheard of, however, and has happened in the U.S. during the current outbreak. On Tuesday, health officials confirmed three new pediatric cases in Georgia, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
What about vaccinations for the staff?
The CDC reiterated that there is currently no need for widespread vaccination for monkeypox among children and staff at U.S. day cares, pre-schools or K-12 schools.
People should get the vaccination if they’ve been exposed to monkeypox or fall into one of the these three groups:
- People who have been identified by public health officials as a contact of someone with monkeypox
- People who know one of their sexual partners in the past 2 weeks has been diagnosed with monkeypox
- People who had multiple sexual partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with known monkeypox
With monkeypox dominating headlines this summer, the CDC is also reminding families and school employees that the risk is low, and if a rash and fever develop it could be from a number of far more common viruses.
If the child was confirmed to have been exposed to monkeypox and develops symptoms, administrators and other school staff are encouraged to follow CDC’s guidance here: “What should we do if a person who has been exposed to monkeypox develops symptoms while in our setting?”.
What should schools do if there is a monkeypox case?
If an infected student does come to school, make sure to clean and disinfect the area where the child spent time and any surfaces he or she might have touched, according to the CDC. Anything that can’t be cleaned and disinfected should be thrown away.
All children, staff and volunteers not involved in cleaning should stay out of the room until the process is done.
“Most children can attend school and other school-related activities even if they have had close contact with someone with monkeypox,” according to the CDC. “The health department will provide specific guidance should an exposure occur.”
If a child develops symptoms while at school, teachers should move that student to a more isolated setting, like an office, and have the child (above 2 years old) or adolescent where a mask before calling a parent or caregiver.
Staff working with the child should wear a respirator if possible, or a well-fitting mask, and avoid any unnecessary close contact by wearing protective equipment, not holding the child and not touching the rash area. Staff is still encouraged “to attend to the child in an age-appropriate manner (for example, changing soiled diapers, calming an upset toddler).”
Any cases should be reported to health officials to help with the contact tracing process.
How long should a student with monkeypox stay out of school?
If a student catches monkeypox, the CDC recommends that he or she isolate to lessen the likelihood of transmitting it.
Isolation should continue until all the scabs from the monkeypox rash have fully healed and a new layer of skin has formed. This could take as long as four weeks after symptoms start.
People who get sick should also stay away from pets and other animals. Earlier this month, a 4-year-old male Italian greyhound is believed to have contracted monkeypox from a human, which is thought to be the first documented human-pet transmission.
While the risk to children is low, schools that do have a case should “communicate fact-based information to parents and caregivers, including staff members, and avoid introducing stigma.”
I have monkeypox and I can’t isolate from my child
In an ideal scenario, another parent or adult in the household without monkeypox should serve as the primary caregiver.
If that’s not possible, here are some precautions that the CDC recommends while caring for the child:
- During interactions, the parent or caregiver should cover their rash with clothing, gloves, or bandages, wear a well-fitting mask, and follow other prevention practices.
- The child or adolescent, if 2 years of age or older, should wear a well-fitting mask or respirator during interactions with the parent or caregiver.
- The guidance for Disinfecting the Home and Other Non-Healthcare Settings to clean and disinfect surfaces, floors, and shared items used by the person with monkeypox should be followed.
- The parent should work with their doctor and health department for further guidance on the child’s activities outside the home.
If the parent or caregiver is able to isolate and the child wears a mask during any contact, the child should be able to return to school, according to the CDC.
Children exposed to monkeypox should be monitored for symptoms for 21 days.
Daily temperature checks, full-body skin checks and inspection of the inside of the mouth for sores or ulcers is recommended, but symptoms may still be hard to detect.
Parents can ask older children to let them know if they experience any pain or rashes on the skin in their private areas.
“It is also important to discuss vaccination for exposed children with the health department,” according to the CDC. “A vaccine is available that can help prevent monkeypox in people who have been exposed if it is given soon after exposure.”