Monkeypox in NYC: Are schools a concern?

As children get ready to head back to school there are concerns that it could fuel a further spread of the monkeypox virus.

Monkeypox has been declared a national health emergency but 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.

Randi Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers.

"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.

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Dr. Sara Siddiqui is at NYU Langone, Huntington.

"Pediatricians are getting ready and already speaking with their patients and patients' parents regarding what to do if they think that they may have a rash or a fever that could look like monkeypox," Siddiqui says.

Federal health officials say that there are more than 7,500 monkeypox infections in the U.S., the most of any country in the current outbreak, and almost every state now has at least one confirmed case.  New York City is still considered the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S.

The officials say that it's difficult to predict where the outbreak will go from here because this is a much more aggressive form of monkeypox than has been seen in the past.

New York City has been aggressively trying to get the vaccine for people considered to be at high risk for monkeypox but demand has far outweighed supply.

The city has doubled the capacity to administer monkeypox vaccine shots but it's having trouble getting enough shots and appointments are scooped up within minutes of being offered.

How is monkeypox spread?

In the current outbreak, the monkeypox virus:

• Is spreading mainly during oral, anal, and vaginal sex and other intimate contact such as rimming, hugging, kissing, biting, cuddling and massage 
• Can spread through direct contact with a rash or sores of someone who has the virus; from coming into contact with clothing, bedding, towels or other items they have used; and from prolonged face-to-face contact 
• Spreads when people have symptoms, but experts are still studying whether it spreads before symptoms start or after they end 
• May spread through semen, saliva, feces (poop), and other body fluids – experts are still studying whether this is possible. 

RELATED: Monkeypox a 'State Disaster Emergency': Gov. Hochul

Monkeypox Symptoms

The most common symptom is a rash or sores that may look like pimples or blisters. The rash and sores may be all over the body or on certain parts, including around and inside the genitals, anus, and mouth, and last for two to four weeks.

The rash can be extremely itchy and painful and interfere with daily activities. Sores in the anus or urethra can make it hard to go to the bathroom.

Some people also have flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, fever, and fatigue. Complications from monkeypox infection include inflammation of the rectal lining (proctitis).

Even after healing, people can have scarring in the areas where they had sores.

A person is contagious until all sores have healed, and a new layer of skin has formed, which can take two to four weeks.

It is not known if there are long-term health problems associated with monkeypox.