Monkeypox and kids: What you need to know




Currently, the risk in children is extremely low, but parents should be aware of the virus and how it is transmitted.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer,

Like we all need one more thing to worry about, right?

Monkeypox. What is it? How do you get it? And should you worry about your kids contracting it?

“Overall, the risk in children is very low, but there have been cases in kids, including in Indiana,” said Riley Children’s Health infectious disease physician Dr. Chandy John.

Like most pediatric physicians, he doesn’t want to sound the alarm at this point because, in fact, the risk is so low, “but it’s not zero,” he added, and it’s always better to be armed with good information to reduce risk to your family.

Maybe you haven’t paid much attention to the news swirling around this latest virus, but monkeypox has been declared a federal health emergency in the United States.

It is a viral disease that previously affected rodents and primates in rainforest areas of west and central Africa but now has been transmitted to humans.

It’s not another Covid, infectious disease doctors emphasize, but it is a disease that we still don’t know much about, so here are some things for parents to consider:

  • As of Aug. 8, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control reported 8,934 cases of monkeypox/orthopoxvirus in the U.S., with 77 of those in Indiana. Cases have been steadily climbing since the first reported case in the U.S. in May.
  • To date, just five cases have been reported in children in the U.S., but two of those have been in Indiana.
  • Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. A rash, that resembles pimples or blisters, can also appear on parts of the body about one to three days after exposure.
  • The virus is most often spread through direct contact with the monkeypox rash or scabs, or through bodily fluids from an infected person, said Kristen Kelley, director of quality, safety and infection prevention at IU Health. But it can also be spread by touching clothing, bedding or other surfaces used by someone with the virus.
  • The skin lesions generally resolve within two to four weeks. Someone is considered infectious until their lesions have crusted and the scabs have fallen off, according to the CDC.
  • Pregnant people can pass the virus on to their new baby.
  • While it is disproportionately affecting certain populations more frequently (primarily men who have sex with other men), it has the potential to spread to the general population.
  • Young children under the age of 8, particularly those with eczema and other skin conditions, and children with immunocompromising conditions may be at increased risk of severe disease, the CDC warns.
  • Children are not likely to contract the virus on the playground or even at school, health officials say. It is spread mainly through close and prolonged skin-to-skin contact.
  • There is an approved vaccine for adults 18 and older to prevent monkeypox, but the shot can be given to children with a known exposure on a case-by-case basis, with special authorization.
  • There have been no reported deaths in the U.S. due to the virus.

Dr. John recommends that parents who suspect their child has been exposed to someone with monkeypox or who see skin lesions that look like they could be monkeypox should turn to their pediatrician, who can determine if testing and treatment are required and can refer the patient to Riley if warranted.

Related Doctor

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Chandy C. John, MD

Pediatric Infectious Disease