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State and county health departments

(NEW YORK) – As children and teens continue to return to classrooms, questions arise about how risky K-12 schools are to the spread of monkeypox.

More than 18,400 cases have been diagnosed in the United States since mid-May on Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most cases have occurred in men who have sex with men, a group that includes people who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender and non-binary. However, the CDC said anyone — regardless of sexual orientation — is at risk for monkeypox if they come into close, personal contact with a patient.

Of those cases, 31 involved children, according to state officials across the country. Texas has the most confirmed pediatric cases with nine followed by California with six and Georgia with three.

Although the risk for most children is low, school officials are monitoring for possible infections.

“So superintendents are obviously aware of monkeypox,” Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director of advocacy and governance at AASA, The School Superintendents Association, told ABC News.

Ng said most of the schools she spoke with are not currently creating new health guidelines to deal with monkeypox because they already have policies and strategies in place for communicable diseases, many of which have been recently used to fight COVID-19.

“So it’s about making sure those are up to date, that they know what they are, that their school health staff know them,” she said. “And then just the diligence on the part of the administrative team and the health team to find out what the local and national health policy guidance is, and then supplement with guidance and recommendations from the CDC.”

Two weeks ago, before most children return to school, the CDC released monkeypox guidelines for K-12 schools, daycare centers and other facilities serving children and adolescents.

The federal health agency said the risk of illness for most Americans under 18 is low, but schools “should follow their daily operational guidelines that reduce the transmission of infectious disease.” Examples include staying home when sick, good handwashing etiquette, and “routine cleaning and sanitizing practices.”

The CDC also recommends that schools consult their local or state health departments about what to do if someone develops symptoms and tests for monkeypox, as well as notify parents if a case is diagnosed in a student or an adult.

Linda Mendonca, president of the National Association of School Nurses, said the guidance has been particularly helpful for school nurses, who are often required to pass on health information to the community.

“It’s definitely helpful to have that, and it provides us with talking points and information to share with our school communities,” Mendonca told ABC News. “For example, letting you know that parents need to keep kids home when they’re sick; to make sure we wash our hands and clean and sanitize and do all these things that we would do for pretty much n any type of infectious situation that we might have in the school setting.”

Some schools have already announced that they follow these policies. On Monday, the Fort Bend Independent School District in Texas announced that a high school student had tested positive for monkeypox.

The district said it will follow established cleaning protocols in schools, including the use of UV-C disinfection lamps — which use ultraviolet light — in classrooms and other facilities.

Last week, after two elementary school students tested positive in the Newton County school system in Georgia, the district said parents had been notified and parents considered close contacts would receive communication about upcoming steps.

“NCSS facility employees will be deep cleaning and disinfecting classrooms and other areas at both schools this afternoon to ensure safe and healthy learning and working environments for students and staff. Both schools will be open tomorrow,” the district said in a statement.

According to the CDC, as of August 21, of 151 cases of monkeypox in people under 20, only 17 were in people ages 15 and under.

Dr. Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, told ABC News that if there is a risk of transmission by touching a monkeypox patient’s infected bedding, towels or clothing or contaminated surfaces , the riskiest mode of transmission is having sex with someone. who has positive or prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.

“Among children, I’m most concerned about teenagers starting to engage in sexual behaviors,” he said. “It usually starts like [ages] 15, 16, 17, 18 years old. It’s the kids that would worry me the most.”

“The parents who should be the most aware, the most informed, the most open conversations with their children are those who potentially have children who engage in really intimate behaviors with others, which could lead to the transmission of smallpox monkey,” he said. added.

However, while he encourages parents to ask about what schools are doing to ensure children are protected in general, he advises mothers and fathers not to panic.

“I think the most important thing I would say to these parents is that we be aware that we are still dealing with something called COVID-19, that a new booster will be available in the fall,” Halkitis said. “Let’s talk about whether or not your child is vaccinated for this.”

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