MACON, Ga. — Georgia reports just under 300 cases of monkeypox. Health officials confirmed the first case in Central Georgia, but as the back-to-school season approaches, many parents wonder how the disease might impact their child and school environment.
The CDC calls monkeypox a rare infectious disease. Michael Hokanson with the North Central Health District says, "An individual can experience fever, chills, headache, muscle ache. Swelling of the lymph nodes is commonly associated with monkeypox, but, of course, the primary characteristic of monkeypox is the rash."
He says in previous outbreaks of monkeypox most cases were mild, meaning it wasn't severe or deadly to most people infected, but what does it mean for children, especially ahead of the back-to-school season?
Kimberly Spivey has two kids of her own and owns a daycare.
"As a mom, it's very worrisome for what that looks like going back in the public," Spivey said.
She says since the COVID-19 pandemic began, she's most worried about how that's impacting kids socially.
"Being able to go out in the public, being able to be around other kids and not have that fear if somebody is sick -- just that social skills that's missing. We missed a lot of social skills during COVID because everybody was isolated," Spivey said.
Spivey doesn't want to see monkeypox isolate children like COVID-19 did, and health officials say it likely won't.
"In previous outbreaks, children were hit harder, so they do have a higher risk for severe outcomes should they become infected with monkeypox," Hokanson said.
According to Hokanson, monkeypox isn't impacting children as much as others. In fact, it was just last Friday that the CDC confirmed the first two cases of the virus in children in the U.S.
Atrium Health Navicent Doctor Yameika Head says she's more concerned about children getting COVID-19 than monkeypox.
"COVID is what we are really seeing, so monkeypox is really nothing that we see a lot in kids, but COVID, we are seeing that daily," Head said.
Overwhelmingly, right now monkeypox is impacting men who have sex with other men, but anyone can get the virus.
"Skins-to-skin contact, respiratory droplets, any kind of close personal contact with a positive individual can put another person at risk for transmission, no matter age, gender, or any other status," Hokanson said.
One of the symptoms of monkeypox is a rash. Head says they do see a lot of rashes but none of the rashes look remotely like the disease. She says a good rule of thumb for this virus and general health, "Make sure that we wash our hands real good, not be around people that are sick, and also, masking is something that's going to help prevent this, because it can be spread through coughing and touching different surfaces as well."
Spivey hopes people educate themselves about what's going on to help keep the community safe.
"We all come on board together with CDC, with the health department. If we all are educated and trained as a whole, we can help ourselves and the kids," Spivey said.
Hokanson says he wants to make sure anyone who does get in contact with a positive case gets vaccinated. He says they are limited in the supply of the vaccine, which is distributed by the state Department of Public Health.