Community Health

A Louisville doctor says while she knows many parents are concerned about what monkeypox can mean for their children, there have been very few pediatric cases worldwide.

Dr. Kris Bryant is with Norton Children’s Infectious Diseases. She is also part of a nationwide team developing monkeypox guidelines for the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

During a news conference Monday, Bryant shared insights with parents who may be worried that monkeypox is on the rise as children are returning to school, and on the heels of the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I think my first message for parents is always, ‘Don’t panic,’” she said. “Monkeypox is still incredibly rare in children.”

Monkeypox is spread through skin-to-skin contact and can include flu-like symptoms — fever, chills and nausea — and a rash that is contagious until healed. 

It was first reported in the U.S. in May, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  reports just over 11,000 cases in the current outbreak. Of these, 78 have been in Indiana — including two child cases. There have been 11 cases reported in Kentucky, none of them children. 

Bryant said parents question whether the rash can mimic rashes associated with allergic reactions or other illnesses like chickenpox or hand, foot and mouth disease. 

“I tell them, ‘Yes, but it is much much more likely that your child has hand, foot and mouth disease or chickenpox or poison ivy than monkeypox,’” she said. 

The best way for parents to protect their children from the rare virus is to protect themselves, reporting any rash on an adult in the home to a pediatrician, Bryant said. They should contact health providers about vaccines if there has been an exposure. The FDA recently approved emergency authorization use of the Jynneos vaccine to people under 18 if they have been exposed. 

She added there’s currently not the same threat of spread as COVID. She said that schools and daycare providers are already accustomed to seeing infections in children that include fever or rash, and have requirements for them to be seen by a health care provider before returning. 

“I think those good protocols, which got even better during the pandemic, should help prevent transmission in schools and daycare,” she said. 

“It’s much less transmissible than COVID. We know that now. And so I think it is unlikely to spread rapidly or far, based on the kind of contact kids have with one another in schools and daycares.”

Aprile Rickert is WFPL's health reporter.