A daycare worker in Illinois has tested positive for monkeypox, and health officials are currently unsure how many children might have been exposed to the virus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
"An adult at a day-care center in the Rantoul area has tested positive for a case of monkeypox," Dr. Sameer Vohra, IDPH director, said during a briefing Friday. "Screening of children and other staff is taking place now."
As of Friday, no other cases were confirmed, and Vohra said all available local, state and federal resources are being deployed to assist families. Additionally, the department has been working directly with the Biden Administration to ensure access to vaccines.
Monkeypox can be prevented with the Jynneos smallpox vaccine, which can also be effective after a person is infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Along with the vaccine, medical professionals have also used antiviral treatments, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), to treat monkeypox ib patients who are more likely to get severely ill.
Vohra announced that the FDA has authorized use of the vaccine for anyone under the age of 18, allowing those children exposed to monkeypox to get vaccinated "without jumping through the normal hoops in this process."
"Pediatricians are on-site as we speak to screen children for cases, and there are mobile testing and vaccines for their families," he added, noting that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is working to provide financial assistance to exposed families during isolation.
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"If your child has had the potential to be exposed to this outbreak, you will be called by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District," Julie Pryde, district administrator, said during the briefing. "You do not need to call daycare centers. You do not need to call public health. You will be contacted."
She noted that the adult daycare worker is in isolation and is "doing well" while being medically monitored before assuring that the monkeypox outbreak is not similar to COVID-19.
"Monkeypox is not airborne. It is primarily spread through close skin-to-skin contact. But it can also be spread by droplets during prolonged close contact and through contact with items that may have been contaminated such as towels or bedding," Pryde continued. "Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection. It's a virus and viruses do not discriminate on who they infect."
As of Friday, Illinois had 602 confirmed cases of monkeypox, according to the CDC. The United States has now surpassed 7,500 confirmed cases.
The Biden Administration announced last week that the United States is declaring monkeypox a public health emergency, following the World Health Organization, which declared the virus a public health emergency on July 23.
During a briefing, Robert Fenton, Jr., the White House's newly appointed national monkeypox response coordinator, said the decision will allow officials to "explore additional strategies to get vaccines and treatments more quickly out to the impacted communities. And it will allow us to get more data from jurisdictions so we can effectively track and attack this outbreak."