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How to Prevent Monkeypox Before the Start of School

 

How to Prevent Monkeypox Before the Start of School

Children are not at significant risk of infection, according to experts. However, they provide safety tips for everyone, from babies to college students.

As children around the country head back to school for the third time since the Covid-19 pandemic began, a different approach is needed. “We think that we can safely send our students back into classrooms and expect no cases,” said Dr. David Hey, an infectious disease doctor, and professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Hey explained schools with large numbers of kids should begin testing their staff weekly. They also should offer face coverings and hand sanitizer to those who are sneezing or touching surfaces. He added that kids can only wash their hands when they return to class.

Crowds and transmission are things we want to avoid, Hey emphasized. He emphasized that people need to be careful and keep their distance.

Hey’s advice comes as some schools look to vaccinate more than a thousand kids per day — and it’s unclear how effective they are. A recent survey by Kaiser Family Foundation found 3 out of 4 parents in California believed that their children should attend public school rather than a private school because vaccination both has higher rates of side effects, including a fear of getting sick from a vaccine or even by simply breathing in close enough particles from other students. In addition, public health officials warn against sending kids back in person for any reason now, suggesting they instead be tested and isolated.

How to Prevent Monkeypox Before the Start of School
Photo by RODNAE Production

Studies on COVID-19 from earlier this year show children are not more likely to contract the virus than adults. And while children have often been less affected by new variants that allow it to spread more easily, researchers are watching out for signs that this could be changing. Children’s immune systems have not yet been studied in depth to see if vaccinations would prevent them from developing COVID-19.

But Hey says data shows that masks can help curb the coronavirus’ spread, which will depend heavily on what mask policies do.

Other considerations for keeping kids masked include:

• Parents keep kids at home instead of making sure they stay socially distanced.

• When possible, use cloth masks over surgical masks. The CDC recommends using disposable fabric masks when medical masks aren’t available. Although these are harder to get, their effectiveness increases if cloth masks are worn for long periods of time. This requires longer cleaning, so contact tracing can take place.

• Keep doorways closed if ventilation seems low and keep windows open, especially when doors are opened. Open windows and doors would reduce the risk of spreading respiratory droplets. It may also be prudent to use Lysol wipes or wipe down surfaces where viruses can be easily transmitted. (For more information, visit precautions.cdc.gov.)

On average, there has been just one case of SARS-CoV-2 infection among 15,000 children in the nation’s 47 largest school districts nationwide. There were 30 confirmed infections among pupils at the same number of schools in San Francisco and New York. Cases were nearly twice as common in New York City than in districts in the state as a whole.

Dr. Peter Hotez, an emergency room doctor and professor at Stony Brook School of Medicine in New York City, told Barron’s last week that the virus isn’t inherently dangerous for young children — unlike older ones. The good news for younger kids is that wearing appropriate protective measures may lower their chances of becoming infected, he said.

“If you wear a mask, you protect yourself,” Hotez said during a Livestream briefing at Princeton University Medical Center in New Jersey. But if you don't, you risk endangering other people. You’ve got a lot of people around you. So, try and minimize your contacts and minimize gathering. That’s my recommendation. Don’t go anywhere right now. If you do go out, do something safe and do it at home so that you are not mixing with anybody else in your family.”

He noted that while children can transmit COVID-19, cases are rare compared to adults. However, “they can still pass it on,” he warned.

Another thing to consider is the long-term care facility setting. Research shows the potential impact the virus can have on elderly residents is unclear. Researchers are waiting to learn whether vaccines might prevent people from dying or suffering severe illness after catching the virus. Several families have died after contracting the virus at homes run by the Trump Administration’s Health and Human Services department. Others have faced deaths in nursing homes due to complications of COVID-19.

Infected residents can also infect many other people at a facility and spread the coronavirus to anyone they come in contact with. So when someone with the virus is hospitalized and needs to visit a long-term care facility, the virus can infect many other patients around them. People have reported hearing coughing, wheezing, and blood-borne illnesses at such facilities. Other residents have contracted the coronavirus as well.

How to Prevent Monkeypox Before the Start of School
Photo by RODNAE Productions

“It’s very difficult to separate age and susceptibility for SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Prof. Charles Chiu from UCLA Grossman School of Medicine in Los Angeles. Infected people age as much as the general population from the same risk factors for the virus as everyone else. These include obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Younger children also have more comorbidities, including asthma. More vulnerable groups have poorer access to treatment and essential supplies, which makes Covid-19 more challenging for all parts of society.

But even with these caveats, SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t appear to be deadly for young kids. Last week, the Food & Drug Administration approved Pfizer and BioNTech for emergency approval of their coronavirus vaccine for children ages 12 and up. Vaccines will be distributed through pharmacies across the U.S., depending on the local jurisdiction. Both vaccines will require two doses, taken about three weeks apart.

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