How worried should parents be about monkeypox?

A man examines the lower back of a small child.

Monkey pox requires close personal contact to spread, so household members are the most likely source of the small chance that children will contract it. (Getty Images)

Monkeypox dominated the headlines this summer thanks to its continued spread across the US — and the world. There are currently more than 5,100 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the number of cases rising rapidly every day. With that, it’s understandable for everyone – including parents – to have concerns and questions.

The disease is caused by the monkeypox virus, according to the CDC, and its symptoms are similar to those of smallpox but milder. These can include fever, headache, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes, followed by a distinct rash that usually starts on the face and spreads to other parts of the body before the bumps fall off, the CDC says.

Monkey pox is transmitted to a person by direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids. contact with respiratory secretions from prolonged face-to-face contact. or from touching objects, such as clothing or linens, that have touched the infectious rash or body fluids, the CDC says. Pregnant women can also pass the virus to their fetus through the placenta, the agency says.

Cases have largely occurred among men who have sex with men, prompting World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to urge members of that community to reduce the number of sexual partners they have and reconsider sex with new partners. But the outbreaks aren’t limited to this community — and the CDC recently revealed during a virtual event with the Washington Post that two children have contracted the disease.

While CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said both children are “doing well,” parents likely have concerns — especially since the CDC also warns online that children under 8 are at increased risk for severe monkeypox, along with those who are pregnant or immunocompromised. The CDC has even issued specific guidelines for pediatricians about what to look for with monkeypox in young patients and how to care for them.

Infectious disease experts and pediatricians tell Yahoo Life that monkeypox isn’t something parents should worry too much about. However, it is important to be informed. Here’s what you need to know.

What are the signs and symptoms of monkeypox to look out for?

Generally, the CDC says, monkeypox is an illness that lasts two to four weeks. It usually starts with these symptoms:

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Muscle pains

  • Lumbago

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Chills

  • Exhaustion

A few days later, an infected person will usually develop a rash that usually starts on the face and spreads to other parts of the body. Strokes go through distinct phases, the CDC says:

  • Macules (flat, discolored bumps)

  • Papillomas (raised area of ​​skin)

  • Cysts (blisters filled with clear fluid)

  • Polyps (small lumps that contain pus and have a depression in the center)

  • Scabies (dry, crusty bumps)

“It’s a very distinctive rash,” Dr. Ian Michelow, chief of pediatric infectious disease and immunology at Connecticut Children’s Specialty Group. “The rash looks the same in children as it does in adults.”

But early signs of monkeypox in children can be difficult to spot. “Here’s the problem: Children, babies or toddlers don’t always have the words to express things like, ‘I have a headache’ or ‘I feel a headache,'” Dr. Danelle Fisher, a pediatrician and chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s. Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Yahoo Life. “But these are feelings they can have in the early stages of monkeypox.”

How worried should parents be?

Experts stress that monkeypox is not something parents need to worry about at this point. “Without known contact with a person or animal with smallpox, the risk of monkeypox infection in children living in the U.S. currently remains low,” says Dr. Jill Weatherhead, assistant professor of tropical medicine and infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine. . Yahoo Life. But, she adds, “parents should notify their children’s pediatrician or public health department if their children come into contact with a person diagnosed with monkeypox or with a person who has an illness compatible with monkeypox.” .

Fisher points out that monkey pox is unlikely to be something your child picks up while outside. “You’re not going to walk into a grocery store, someone with monkey pox three aisles over sneezes and you or your child gets it,” she explains.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, agrees. “Monkeypox requires close personal contact to spread — that means household members are likely to be the source,” she tells Yahoo Life.

How is monkey pox treated?

Several antiviral drugs are used in the U.S. to treat monkeypox, according to the CDC, including tecovirimat (TPOXX), cidofovir, and brincidofovir.

What can parents do to protect their children?

Michelow stresses that parents “shouldn’t worry at all” about monkeypox. “It’s not spread like COVID,” he says. “You need close contact or skin contact.”

But, Fisher says, parents should “vet” people who come into contact with their babies or toddlers. “I don’t think it should change people’s lives in terms of what they choose to do for their daily activities, but you want to confirm that people are healthy before they interact with your child,” she says.

Weatherhead recommends that parents “encourage their children to continue normal health safety practices, including hand hygiene,” adding, “No additional precautions are needed at this time.”

Overall, Fisher says parents should be more concerned about COVID-19 than monkeypox. “COVID is much more rampant in the pediatric community,” he says.

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