Monkeypox is on the rise in America and around the globe, with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirming it in additional than 15,000 states. The Biden administration is accelerating vaccine distribution efforts and strengthening group outreach, together with by way of group partnerships and clinician and affected person schooling.
Meanwhile, students return to high school. Parents, educators, lecturers and students have many questions. Can monkeypox be unfold by sitting subsequent to somebody with the virus at school or enjoying collectively on the playground? Can it be unfold by sharing meals or drinks? Are there sure high-risk actions for Okay-12 students? What about school students? And what in regards to the threat of different infectious illnesses?
To assist us with these questions, I requested CNN medical analyst Dr. Liana Wen is an emergency doctor and professor of well being coverage and administration at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She can also be the writer of “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey within the Battle for Public Health” and is the mom of two younger youngsters who will each begin college subsequent week.
CNN: Can you inform me how monkeypox is spreading and who’s at increased threat?
Dr. Liana Wen: Monkeypox is primarily transmitted by way of extended skin-to-skin contact with an individual who’s actively shedding the virus. It is related to intimate sexual exercise, however can be transmitted by way of different intimate contact corresponding to kissing and caressing. The earliest teams have been gays, bisexuals, and different males who’ve intercourse with males. A latest research revealed by the CDC discovered that 99% have been males, and 94% reported latest male-to-male sexual or intimate contact.
This is totally different from one other illness that we have now been speaking about so much within the final couple of years, Covid-19. Covid-19 is attributable to an airborne virus that’s extremely contagious. You can get Covid-19 from speaking to somebody or sharing the identical air with somebody in the identical room as you. Monkey pox can be unfold by way of sure objects, corresponding to bedding, towels, and utensils utilized by an contaminated particular person, however it is a a lot much less frequent route of transmission than direct contact.
CNN: Let’s speak about some examples of frequent situations in class settings. Can monkeypox be transmitted by sitting subsequent to somebody at school or driving the bus collectively?
Wen: This is extremely unlikely. Monkey pox isn’t contagious simply by sitting subsequent to an individual. Again, this isn’t Covid-19 – this virus is nearly non-contagious.
CNN: What about enjoying collectively on the playground? Does touching the identical issues put them at threat of contracting monkeypox?
Wen: In concept, a toddler with an open rash might contact one other youngster whereas enjoying collectively. Young youngsters additionally put issues of their mouths that different youngsters might contact, and infections can happen this fashion.
I’m not nervous about my two little boys, ages 2 and 5, getting monkeypox as a result of it hasn’t unfold amongst youngsters to this point within the United States. There are a couple of remoted studies of youngsters with monkeypox, however no studies of youngsters being contaminated with one another. The incidence of monkeypox amongst youngsters is now very low, so I haven’t got to fret about it spreading when my youngsters are in preschools and daycares.
That might change if youngsters begin to have an outbreak, however it’s not one thing we have seen to this point.
CNN: Can monkeypox be unfold by sharing drinks or meals?
Wen: Yes. Again, that is much less of a threat than different intimate actions mentioned earlier, corresponding to sexual exercise, however sharing drinks or meals is a potential technique of transmission. People with monkeypox mustn’t share utensils, meals or drink with others.
CNN: You talked about earlier that it may be unfold by way of sheets and towels. Should parents and guardians keep away from inns due to issues about their youngsters’s clothes?
Wen: I don’t suppose so. If somebody will get monkeypox, they will unfold the virus on their garments and different issues that come into contact with their rash, corresponding to sheets, towels, and different linens. If you will have monkeypox in your loved ones, nobody ought to share their garments or bedding.
But that is utterly totally different from purchasing malls or staying in inns. Of course, there’s a theoretical chance that an individual sporting the identical clothes has contracted monkeypox and the virus stays on the clothes, however the odds are extraordinarily low. This additionally applies to inns the place sheets and towels should be modified between friends.
CNN: Are there sure high-risk actions for Okay-12 students?
Wen: Activities involving extended skin-to-skin contact enhance the danger. For instance, youngsters who wrestle or play soccer are extra at threat than those that run or swim.
This doesn’t imply that youngsters mustn’t take part in contact sports activities. Again, the incidence of rabies in youngsters is presently very low, so it should not be a severe concern.
Some students within the college are sexually energetic. My concern is for these students, particularly those that have a number of companions or have intercourse with individuals they do not know properly, as a result of monkeypox is primarily unfold by way of such intimate actions.
CNN: That brings me to school students. What harmful actions are there for them and what precautions ought to they take?
Wen: Let’s look at actions by threat stage. The largest threat is having intercourse with a number of companions. Intimate actions corresponding to kissing and cuddling with a number of individuals additionally carry a excessive threat.
Sharing drinks, meals, and objects corresponding to cigarettes and vapes could cause transmission of monkeypox, however the threat is low. Monkey pox has additionally been documented in individuals who dance with many different individuals for lengthy durations of time, particularly if most individuals do not cowl sure elements of their our bodies, which results in extra skin-to-skin contact.
As with most sports activities, being in a platonic room with somebody is low threat. Other every day actions, corresponding to going to class, consuming with friends, and socializing with pals, are at very low threat. Teachers, professors, and different college and college workers are at very low threat except they’re in direct contact with students or one another.
CNN: What precautions would you advise school students to take?
Wen: Know the actions with the very best threat and attempt to scale back the danger. Sexual exercise is the largest threat, so take into account decreasing the variety of sexual companions you will have earlier than getting vaccinated. Before changing into intimate, ask if the opposite particular person has had any new or sudden rashes, and if potential, take into account exchanging contact data with any new sexual companions in case you or they develop signs later. Try to not share drinks, meals, or cigarettes with a number of strangers. If you intend to be in nightclubs or bars with lots of people, put on lengthy sleeves and pants to cowl areas the place you may get near others.
I might additionally encourage everybody to be conscious of the indicators and signs to be careful for. In most instances, monkeypox presents with fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash, adopted by blisters. However, fever and swollen lymph nodes should not all the time current. You may additionally have a small rash or two wherever in your physique. Monkey pox could cause sores in your mouth, genitals, or anus. If you will have any of those signs, get examined.
This jogs my memory – students have to know the place to go for testing. Many faculties supply on-site testing. Others suggest visiting a business lab close to you. All faculties ought to have isolation procedures in place. This will assist you already know what they’re prematurely, so you aren’t getting caught off guard when you take a look at optimistic.
Finally, students who’re eligible to obtain vaccinations should accomplish that. CDC has eligibility suggestions. Ask your native well being division and sexual well being clinics in your space. The availability of vaccines and tips on how to get them varies by a part of the nation. My sturdy recommendation to individuals assembly the CDC’s eligibility suggestions is to get the vaccine when you can – it would scale back your probabilities of getting contaminated and spreading monkeypox to others.
CNN: The massive image — how ought to parents, educators, lecturers and students view the danger of monkeypox alongside the danger of different infectious illnesses?
Wen: It varies by age. Given the populations affected by monkeypox to this point, the danger to an individual who has not engaged in any sexual exercise could be very low. The social surroundings of school, mixed with high-risk actions, makes monkeypox a severe concern for students of that age.