Health officials: Three Ga. children with monkeypox caught it at home

A student in a Newton County elementary school and two others did not acquire the virus in a classroom setting

Update: The three confirmed cases of monkeypox in Georgia children first reported on Wednesday have been linked to household transmission, according to a statement from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

DPH spokeswoman Nancy Nydam told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the pediatric monkeypox cases are “considered to be household transmission,” which would include touching objects or fabrics such as clothing, bedding, or towels, and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox. The risk of in-school transmission of the virus is extremely low, she said.

Original story:

Three children in Georgia have been diagnosed with monkeypox, including one child who lives in metro Atlanta, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Newton County Schools System announced Tuesday that one elementary-school-aged child in Newton County, a student at Mansfield Elementary School, has been diagnosed with monkeypox. Another child in the district who attends Flint Hill Elementary is undergoing testing for the infectious disease, according to school officials.

The Newton County School System said it was notified Tuesday of the confirmed and suspected cases.

In addition to the Newton case, DPH spokeswoman Nancy Nydam said one earlier pediatric case of monkeypox had been reported in metro Atlanta, but she would not specify which county the case was located in. A third confirmed pediatric case also exists in the state, Nydam said, but she wouldn’t say where in Georgia it was located.

The number of monkeypox cases in Georgia rose to 1,240 as of Wednesday afternoon, including the three pediatric cases and 19 women, according to the DPH. The CDC reports that around the U.S. there are 17 children ages 15 and under who have been diagnosed with monkeypox.

The DPH website that details Georgia monkeypox cases will be updated Wednesday afternoon.

The Newton County School System officials have notified parents at both schools about the cases via School Messenger. Parents of students who may be considered close contacts of the ill students will receive additional communication from school officials advising them of the next steps.

The CDC defines a close contact as someone who has had skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, including touching or coming into contact with the monkeypox rash, or who have shared items such as towels and bedding.

The Newton school system said on Tuesday that maintenance employees would clean and disinfect classrooms and other areas at both elementary schools.

When the school year began, health experts said parents should not expect to be informed by their school when monkeypox cases occur among school workers or students. Like other reportable illnesses, health care providers must report monkeypox cases to DPH, but the state Department of Education has no authority to require schools to report cases, a DOE spokesperson said.

Georgia Department of Health holds mass monkeypox vaccine clinic in DeKalb County

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Earlier this month, as students started returning to school, Clayton County Schools told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday that an employee had contracted the virus over the summer, but never had any contact with students or teachers.

Health experts say that based on the data we have so far, the risk of monkeypox spreading in a school setting appears to be a “very low risk.” But that doesn’t mean the risk is zero.

Dr. Jayne Morgan, executive director of the COVID Task Force at Piedmont, said in a recent interview that families should practice good hand hygiene — washing hands with soap and running water for 20 seconds. She said rigorous cleaning measures, which were put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, help with preventing the spread of monkeypox.

And for children living with adults in high-risk groups for monkeypox, “Encourage (the adults at high-risk) to get vaccinated against monkeypox. That is the No.1 thing the person can do to protect themselves and other people in the household.”

The AJC interviewed Dr. Bronwen Garner, an infectious Disease Specialist at Piedmont Healthcare, asking a range of questions about Monkeypox. Video by Ryon Horn

While nearly all cases to date have been among men who have sex with men, according to the CDC, health authorities emphasize anyone can catch monkeypox. The health officials also say the virus could begin to spread more broadly.

The monkeypox virus is far less transmissible than the coronavirus because it is spread primarily through prolonged skin-to-skin contact. Touching items that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids is one-way monkeypox spreads, but DPH said in a statement that that has not been identified as a meaningful or common mode of transmission in this outbreak or for monkeypox in general.