Children potentially exposed to monkeypox at Illinois daycare, officials say

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A person who works at an Illinois daycare center has tested positive for monkeypox, potentially exposing children to the virus, state officials said Friday.

Authorities screen children and others potentially exposed to symptoms and offer them vaccines, which can prevent infection or reduce the severity of symptoms after exposure. The Food and Drug Administration has allowed potentially exposed children to receive the Jynneos vaccine, which is currently only licensed for adults.

What to know about monkeypox symptoms, treatments and protection

Authorities have not said how many people have been exposed to the virus, which is spread through close contact with an infected person and is not airborne. State officials said the person also worked at a home care facility and was in contact with an affected client.

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

Federal authorities have confirmed more than 7,100 cases of monkeypox across the United States, overwhelmingly in gay and bisexual men. At least five children have confirmed cases of monkeypox, according to federal officials. The case of the Illinois daycare worker has heightened concerns among public health officials who fear the outbreak could spread more widely if not contained.

Monkeypox illnesses usually clear up after a few weeks, and there are no known deaths in the United States. But for children and people with weakened immune systems, the disease can lead to serious medical complications and has a higher death rate in young children, according to the World Health Organization.

“An infection anywhere is potentially an infection everywhere,” said Anne Rimoin, a UCLA epidemiologist who studied the monkeypox outbreak. “The more cases we see, the more possibilities we see for spread – and the more likely those scenarios are to exist.”

While monkeypox infections can incubate for weeks, Rimoin also pointed out that people exposed to the daycare worker in Illinois would not necessarily test positive. “Household contacts don’t always catch monkeypox – it’s not as transmissible as the coronavirus,” she said.

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

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

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