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Keeping safe from monkeypox as kids return to school

“If you look at what's happened in other places, the expectation is that it will continue to spread,” said Dr. Sandy Arnold, UTHSC and LeBonheur Children’s Hospital.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As monkeypox continues to spread, areas across the nation are having challenges when it comes to testing, vaccination, and treatment. This also comes at a crucial time when many children are heading back to school. We spoke with doctors about how parents can keep their children safe and how hospitals are preparing for more cases.

It is inevitable. “If you look at what's happened in other places, the expectation is that it will continue to spread,” said Dr. Sandy Arnold, UTHSC and LeBonheur Children’s Hospital Division Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Monkeypox cases have sprung up everywhere including here in Shelby County. Local physicians said the cases will continue to increase.

“By the time you recognize a problem, it is probably already getting out of hand,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Baptist Memorial Hospital Infectious Diseases.

“The good news is, it's really not easily spread from person to person through casual contact,” said Dr. Arnold. Most cases reported have been from sexual transmission involving men who have sex with men.

“It would be a serious mistake to assume that this is only a sexually transmitted disease, and only in one group of people are right now because it has the capacity to transmit to others,” said Dr. Threlkeld.

Still, with kids returning to school, there are concerns. “The risk is much lower; however, as more and more people acquire it, the chances that you perhaps live in a house with somebody who has monkey pox will start to go up,” said Dr. Arnold.

“Any close contact skin, the skin, sharing sheets or towels, anything that has that infected fluid from the blisters on it can transmit it to someone else,” said Dr. Threlkeld. Both doctors recommend children not share clothes with others.

When it comes to exposure, we have seen some areas struggle wth testing, treatment, and vaccinations. “We can actually do commercial testing. Now a healthcare provider can send a test from their office without having to go through approval processes, and the Health Department, the CDC to get those tests run,” said Threlkeld. Access to medication for treating monkeypox is a little tricky.

“From a national stockpile, we have a fair number of doses approaching 2 million doses in that stockpile. But to get it, we still have to have providers fill out what can be hours of paperwork to accomplish that,” said Dr. Threlkeld. As for the vaccine, doctors said it is being sent to places of highest need first. In many cases, the vaccine has been used for those who have been exposed. It can prevent infection or make it less severe even days after exposure. As for youth, doctors said no cases have been confirmed yet in Shelby County among children.

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