Children potentially exposed to monkeypox at Illinois daycare, officials say

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A person who works at a day care in Illinois has tested positive for monkeypox, potentially exposing children to the virus, state officials announced Friday.

Officials are screening children and others who were potentially exposed for symptoms and are offering them vaccines, which can prevent infection or reduce the severity of symptoms after exposure. The Food and Drug Administration has allowed children who were potentially exposed to receive the Jynneos vaccine, which is currently only authorized for adults.

What to know about monkeypox symptoms, treatments and protection

Authorities did not say how many people were exposed to the virus, which spreads by close contact to an infected person and is not airborne. State officials said the person also works in a home health care setting and that they were in touch with an affected client.

“All available state, local and federal resources are being deployed to assist families,” said Sameer Vohra, director of Illinois Department of Public Health, at a news conference.

Federal officials have confirmed more than 7,100 cases of monkeypox across the United States, overwhelmingly among gay and bisexual men. At least five children have confirmed cases of monkeypox, according to federal officials. The case of the day care worker in Illinois has heightened concerns among public health authorities who are worried the outbreak will circulate more broadly if it is not contained.

Monkeypox illnesses usually resolve after a few weeks and there are no known fatalities in the US But for children and people with weak immune systems, the disease can lead to severe medical complications and has a higher fatality rate in young children, according to the World Health Organization.

“An infection anywhere is potentially an infection everywhere,” said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at UCLA who has studied the monkeypox outbreak. “The more cases we see, the more opportunity for spread we see — and the more likely these scenarios are to exist.”

While monkeypox infections can incubate for weeks, Rimoin also stressed that people exposed to the day-care worker in Illinois would not necessarily test positive. “Household contacts do not always get monkeypox — it’s not as transmissible as coronavirus,” she said.

Global health authorities say monkeypox, in the current outbreak, is primarily spread by close contact during sex among gay and bisexual men. But they warn it can spread in other ways that usually involve prolonged contact, such as hugging, kissing and dancing without clothes. Potential sources of spread to children include prolonged holding, cuddling and feeding, as well as through shared items such as towels, bedding, cups, and utensils.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D) declared that monkeypox was a public health emergency on Monday, saying the move would improve coordination between state agencies and expedite Illinois’ response to the virus. US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Thursday subsequently declared a national public health emergency for monkeypox, with Biden officials saying that the move would help unlock new funding and authority that could help contain the virus and end the US outbreak.

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