AUSTIN (KXAN) — As families gear up to send their kids back to school, they are yet again facing questions about whether students will be safe and healthy in classrooms. This year, on top of lingering concerns about COVID-19, parents are also asking about monkeypox.
How worried do you need to be? We took that question to various health leaders in Texas. It’s also something a member of Out Youth asked during a monkeypox roundtable last week.
“What should we be telling our parents about how to protect their kids, especially as they go back to school?” Out Youth Austin, asked. “‘Should I let him wrestle, play football?'”
Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County health authority, responded with the following:
“Anytime we’re dealing with a communicable, or a disease that can spread in our community, it’s gonna be important to do the screening that we’ve done in the past to help identify people who might be sick and have them stay out of the play or the situation that’s ongoing, so that we can protect those that are not sick. We’re gonna have to be diligent about that and allow our children to be children and have those people that we identify as being sick in a situation where we can identify what their illness is and let them recover without spreading it to other kids, and that’s hard with children.”
Alana Bejarano, the director of health services at Austin Independent School District said this:
“We have a standard contagious disease policy which is tailored to any issues such as monkeypox. We meet weekly with APH (Austin Public Health) and take their direction regarding protocol/procedure/reporting. Monkeypox information sheets were shared with nurses and administration.”
Dr. Aliza Norwood with Dell Medical School said the following:
“The screening is really, really important. And knowing that monkeypox can have things like fever first, sometimes the rash just comes, but sometimes the fever can proceed the rash, so just being super diligent amongst these playdates or amongst all of the kids that are getting back to school. Just kind of like we were doing with COVID just being diligent about monitoring. It’s a little bit easier than with COVID, because it spreads when somebody has symptoms. So if their kid’s sick, if there’s a rash, fever, headache, that kind of thing, staying home and waiting to see what happens, being really diligent, checking in with a doctor and isolating — I think that’s going to protect kids from being exposed.”
And Dr. Ogechika Alozie with the Texas Medical Association said parents shouldn’t be concerned about sending their kids back to school. He said COVID-19 and monkeypox aren’t even “in the same galaxy.”
“I’ll say that really clearly: highly unlikely. If you are not in these dense social networks where the spread of monkeypox seems to be rising the fastest, it is highly unlikely for you to get monkeypox,” Alozie explained.