Monkeypox Outbreak: Should DC area schools be concerned?

While the coronavirus pandemic seems to be winding down, children going back to school could face a new risk this year, the monkeypox virus.

Monkeypox has been declared a national health emergency but, so far, there has been little guidance on how schools should prepare. Some teachers and parents are wondering how concerned they need to be about it spreading in the classroom.

There have only been five known cases of monkeypox among children across the country and one Illinois daycare worker has tested positive. But as classrooms fill up after summer, there are worries that those numbers could jump.

READ MORE: Infant diagnosed with monkeypox in DC, officials say

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, spoke with FOX 5 New York about monkeypox in schools.

"We've asked the federal government and the CDC to put out real protocols in terms of best practices when it comes to monkeypox," Weingarten says.

She says coronavirus remains a bigger concern for teachers.

Some pediatricians say they are fielding questions from parents about the virus.

As of Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 319 monkeypox cases in D.C., 236 in Maryland, and 175 in Virginia.

Monkeypox Signs, Symptoms and Prevention from the CDC:

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder; and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.

Symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.

The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.

RELATED: Monkeypox cases reported within D.C.'s homeless community

Monkeypox spreads in different ways. The virus can spread from person-to-person through:

  • Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
  • Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact.
  • Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids

It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal.

Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others.

Prevention Steps

Take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
  • Do not make intimate physical contact with a person with monkeypox.
  • Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
  • Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
  • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

READ MORE: DC Health provides weekly monkeypox vaccination clinics for eligible residents

If you are sick with monkeypox:

  • Isolate at home
  • If you have an active rash or other symptoms, stay in a separate room or area away from people or pets you live with, when possible.