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First Oregon pediatric monkeypox case reported; virus unlikely to spread in schools, officials say

The Oregon Health Authority has confirmed the first pediatric case of monkeypox in Oregon.

Citing privacy, OHA declined to specify whether the case involved an infant, child, or adolescent, saying only that the person was below the age of 18.

The case is linked to a monkeypox infection in an adult that was confirmed last month.

“We have a known connection to a previously diagnosed case,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA. “This child did not get the virus at school, child care or another community setting.”

OHA didn’t clarify why the pediatric case did not receive a preventative vaccine.

The vaccine, made by JYNNOS, a pharmaceutical company, can be given to people up to 14 days after exposure to monkeypox to prevent them from developing the disease. Close contacts of known cases are currently eligible for the vaccine.

Oregon’s monkeypox outbreak continues to grow, with 116 cases statewide. There are more than 39,000 cases globally, with the greatest number of new cases now reported in the United States. Monkeypox, which is not a respiratory virus, transmits much less readily than COVID-19. Public health experts say school and child care settings aren’t likely to be places where monkeypox transmits because, in the current outbreak, the virus appears to be transmitted most efficiently through sex. Scientists are still debating the reasons for this.

Transmission can also occur through extended skin-to-skin contact or, less frequently, through contact with contaminated clothing or bed linens. Right now, the disease is spreading primarily, but not exclusively, in networks of gay, bisexual and queer men.

Sidelinger said that while people should not fear that monkeypox will spread readily between children, schools should prepare to accommodate individual staff, students, or teachers who get a monkeypox diagnosis. Those people should stay home while they are symptomatic to minimize any possible exposure, Sidelinger said, and schools should have a plan in place to support any student or teacher who faces a long recovery period at home, while protecting their privacy. Children under 10 have been historically considered to be at higher risk of severe illness due to monkeypox, but the current outbreak involves very few pediatric cases.

The World Health Organization has age data for 21,042 cases in the current global outbreak. Of those, just 107 (.5%) were pediatric cases aged 0-17, and just .1% were ages 0-4. A majority of pediatric cases have been reported in the African region, where outbreaks have occurred for many years.

Of the children reported to have contracted the disease in the current outbreak, zero have reported exposure in a school setting, according to the WHO’s data summary.

The key symptom of the monkeypox virus, also called hMPXV by the Oregon Health Authority, is a rash or sores. The rash can affect the genitals, the mouth, and the skin.

Symptoms sometimes include fever, swollen lymph nodes, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. Typically it takes two to four weeks for the sores to heal over with fresh skin.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Amelia Templeton