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COVINGTON, Ga. — The monkeypox virus has found a place in the Newton County schools system.
On Wednesday morning, the Newton County Schools system issued a statement confirming that a student at Mansfield Elementary School in Covington tested positive for the virus while a student at Flint Hill Elementary School is being tested. The student from Mansfield Elementary is believed to be the first confirmed case of the virus in Newton County.
According to the NCSS statement, school officials notified parents at both schools via School Messenger as well as parents of students who potentially had close contact with the infected student. The statement further noted that Newton County Schools facilities employees will thoroughly clean and disinfect classrooms and other areas at both schools this afternoon, and both schools will remain open for the rest of the day and on Thursday.
Sherri Partee, NCSS Director of Public Relations, says careful observation is the best tool for parents wondering how to best handle their children who may have had contact with an infected student.
“According to the CDC, children who are exposed to monkeypox do not need to quarantine,” Partee said. “Individuals who do not have symptoms cannot transmit the virus. Parents of those who may have been exposed should monitor their child for 21 days for a new rash or other symptoms.”
Partee also added that any parent concerned with their child being exposed should notify their health care provider if their child develops symptoms and let that healthcare provider know that their child may have been exposed to monkeypox.
Here’s what we currently know about the monkeypox virus and how local residents can find vaccine locations and other treatment.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, monkeypox is a rare disease that comes after one has been infected by the virus that causes it. Monkeypox resides in the same virus family as smallpox caused by the variola virus. Once found only in animals, the first human case of monkeypox occurred in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, appearing in a 9-month-old boy. Most cases of the disease have remained concentrate in 11 African countries.
The first monkeypox outbreak to occur beyond Africa actually happened in the U.S. in 2003 when an infected person caught it from infected prairie dogs kept as pets.
What has now been considered a widespread outbreak of the virus in the U.S. began when a man from Boston, Massachusetts tested positive for monkeypox on May 18, 2022. As of Aug. 22, 2022 the virus has now found a home in all 50 states. The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention declared monkeypox a public health emergency in the United States on Aug. 4, 2022. The first case of monkeypox detected in Georgia came on July 26, 2022 when a Georgia woman who had reported contact with a man who was diagnosed with monkeypox.
While it is a virus that can be transported via sexual contact, it is not currently considered a sexually transmitted disease. Anyone can contract monkeypox, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. The monkeypox virus can spread from person to person through direct contact with a rash produced by the virus, scabs or bodily fluids. It can be spread through respiratory secretions, face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact such as kissing, cuddling and sex. In very rare instances, the virus can be contracted through sharing clothing, bedding or towels with an infected individual, but such instances are rare.
It usually enters the body via the eyes, mouth or nose, but can also enter the body through extensive or prolonged contact with broken skin, cuts, abrasions, etc. found on an infected person.
Monkeypox usually clears up on its own with most people recovering from it without treatment. Both the Georgia Department of Public Health and the World Health Organization say common symptoms at the virus’s onset are fever, intense headaches, swelling of the lymph nodes, back pain, muscle aches and a notable lack of energy. These can occur within the first five days of infection.
“Skin eruption” (rashes) begin to show up around between one to three days after fever has set in. According to WHO, rashes appear on the face of an infected person over 95 percent of the time, while the palms of an infected person’s hands and the soles of their feet are other prevalent spots for rashes.
Symptoms typically last from two to four weeks and dissipate with treatment. Severe cases occur more frequently in children and dependent upon the general health status of a patient. Secondary complications such as other infections, bronchopneumonia, sepsis and infection of the cornea can occur, though the frequency of such is unknown.
It does not have a high fatality ratio. The WHO reports that historically its case fatality ration has ranged from 0 to 11 percent. That ratio currently sits at around 3 to 6%.
Over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers and fever reducers — think Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, etc. — can help alleviate symptoms. For rashes, soaking in warm baths with colloidal oatmeal can help ease the dry, itch feeling. It’s best to avoid contact with others until all rashes and lesions have scabbed and fallen off or disappeared. Covering rashes and lesions with gauze and bandages can help prevent potential spread to others.
As far as vaccines go, monkeypox vaccines are free and based on local availability. You can contact the Newton County Health Center for more information on how to find and schedule vaccines. You can also schedule a vaccination appointment by calling the GDPH’s Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line at (888) 457-0186.