photo of microscopic monkeypox illness
MONKEYPOX: A microscopic image of monkeypox from a 2003 outbreak in prairie dogs. This sample is from human skin. CDC

The first day of school is on the horizon in Arkansas. Between the everlasting COVID-19 pandemic and imminent threat of school shootings, families can take heart knowing that at least the risk for monkeypox spread is low.

Nationwide, few cases have been reported in children, said Jennifer Dillaha, director for the state health department. At this point, there isn’t a spread of monkeypox from child to child, she said.

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“I don’t view the spread of monkeypox in schools right now as a risk,” Dillaha said. “It could be a risk in the future if more children do get infected and could spread it at school — it would be activities with skin-to-skin contact, maybe with sports.” 

Monkeypox is spreading throughout the country with a total of 6,326 cases reported as of Aug. 2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arkansas reported five of those cases; its first on July 5. The World Health Organization deemed monkeypox a global health emergency July 23.

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The Arkansas Department of Health does not release specific details about the infected individuals. Contact tracers should notify those exposed.

Dillaha said the illness has the most spread among men who have sex with men and their community, however anyone can become infected if exposed. Monkeypox spreads through direct contact with an infected person, and indirectly through touching objects that have been contaminated, such as clothing, bedding or towels. It is a very distinct illness with few asymptomatic cases, she said.

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There is not a documented risk of spread from public restrooms, Dillaha said. It also does not spread through coughing or sneezing, she said.

Monkeypox is closely related to smallpox and has similar symptoms. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion, sore throat or cough and a prominent rash — though they may take up to three weeks to present themselves.

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The rash will go through several stages and may be painful or itchy; it can look like pimples or blisters. The pustules are considered healed once new skin has grown over the infected area.

Vaccinations are available for exposed, or potentially exposed, individuals. Dillaha said the health department is prioritizing work with pharmacies that have a good relationship with the most vulnerable populations. 

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Statewide, 600 vaccine doses have been received, said Danyelle McNeill, an ADH spokesperson. The doses were distributed among the ADH central office with 80 doses, Park West Pharmacy in Little Rock with 80 doses and the remaining 440 allocated for local health units in the following 10 counties: 

*Craighead

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*Crittenden

*Garland

*Jefferson

*St. Francis

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*Miller

*Pope

*Pulaski

*Union

*Washington

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