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Kids at Illinois daycare possibly exposed to monkeypox by infected worker

Children are being screened and have been cleared by the FDA to have the option to get the vaccine after an employee at a day care facility tested positive, officials said.
/ Source: TODAY

Children at a day care facility in Illinois are being screened for monkeypox and have the option to receive the monkeypox vaccine after an employee tested positive for the virus, state officials said.

Illinois health officials said Friday that a case had been reported in Rantoul, a town in the central part of the state. The name of the facility was not released, and it's not clear how many children attended the day care or may have been exposed.

All children who could have potentially been exposed to monkeypox are being screened, Champaign-Urbana public health district administrator Julie Pryde said at a news conference.

RELATED: How at risk are kids in the monkeypox outbreak?

As of Friday, no other cases of monkeypox in employees or children connected to the day care facility had been reported. On Monday, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Public Health told TODAY there were no further updates to share.

The person who tested positive has been isolated and is doing well, officials said.

A federal exemption was granted to allow the children who were possibly exposed at the day care facility to receive the Jynneos vaccine for monkeypox, which is typically only available to adults.

The Illinois case came just days after the White House declared monkeypox a public health emergency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recorded more than 7,500 U.S. cases of monkeypox, which spreads through close contact — in particular, skin-to-skin or respiratory droplets, or contact with bodily fluids or contaminated materials, such as clothing, towels and bedding. It can cause a rash, painful sores and blisters.

Monkeypox cases have been detected in 48 states in the U.S. While research shows that the outbreak is being driven by sex between men, “the CDC has emphasized that monkeypox can affect anyone who has close contact with people who have monkeypox, and this includes children,” CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund told TODAY in an email last week.

At least five cases of monkeypox in kids have been reported in the U.S., in Indiana, California and Washington, D.C.

Should parents be worried about monkeypox in kids?

Experts previously told TODAY that, at this stage, parents should not be particularly concerned about kids getting monkeypox — unless the parents, themselves, contract it, as the virus can spread through households.

“The No. 1 thing parents can do to protect their children is to make sure they themselves do not get monkeypox,” Dr. Buddy Creech, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Vanderbilt Medical Center, said.

Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the center for vaccine development at Texas Children’s Hospital, told TODAY last week he's not currently worried about transmission in schools.

But “the trajectory (of case numbers) has been going up pretty fast. If it continues to climb and the virus becomes more generalized among the population, that is a concern," he explained, adding that he's more worried about transmission in colleges and boarding schools, where students live in close proximity.

Per Norlund, there are four main groups most at risk for monkeypox — such as people who've been exposed to monkeypox or who had a sexual partner with monkeypox — and children are not included in this group.

Since monkeypox spreads through skin-to-skin contact, the biggest risk for children getting it is through cuddling, feeding, shared towels, bedding, cups and utensils, Nordlund said.

Children under 8 are at the highest risk of severe disease from painful lesions because young children can find it difficult to avoid scratching them, Creech said.