As many as 50 people, many of them children, may have been exposed to monkeypox after a worker at a day care center in rural Illinois tested positive for the virus.
“We hope there are no kid cases,” Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde told The News-Gazette Friday, the day the case was announced by state and local public health officials. “But for all we know, the employee could have gotten it from a kid.”
The newspaper said few details were being shared about the case in Rantoul, a village with a population of about 12,000 in central Illinois, including the gender of the employee. Most cases of monkeypox involve men who have sex with men, although the virus is spread through close contact and can infect anyone.
The day care worker is in isolation and is said to be doing well, the newspaper reported, while children and others who may have been exposed are being monitored for signs of monkeypox, which include flu-like symptoms and a rash followed by fluid-filled pustules that eventually scab over and fall away.
Federal authorities are allowing the children to receive the monkeypox vaccine authorized only for use in adults, according to The Washington Post, after the White House’s new team of monkeypox coordinators expedited the needed paperwork.
There have been no fatalities reported in the United States from monkeypox, but the virus is seen as leading to severe medical complications in children and people with weakened immune systems. The U.S. government and several states, including Illinois, have declared the latest outbreak a public health emergency.
The Illinois day care center case has “heightened concerns among public health authorities who are worried the outbreak will circulate more broadly and affect populations that are more vulnerable to severe outcomes — including children — if it is not contained,” The Washington Post said, particularly with school starting soon.
On July 30, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent an alert to clinicians nationwide, advising them to be on the lookout for signs of monkeypox in children, adolescents, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or who have HIV.
The first two cases of monkeypox in children in the U.S. during the current outbreak were reported July 22, in a toddler in California and in an infant whose family are not U.S. residents but were traveling in Washington, D.C., according to The Washington Post.
The CDC reported there have been 7,510 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the U.S. as of Friday, including 46 cases in Utah. The virus was first identified in Utah in late May, in two Salt Lake County men who had traveled to Europe earlier that month to an area with monkeypox cases.
The day care center case in Illinois is only the third to date in Champaign County, the News-Gazette reported, and the area’s first case was confirmed in early July. With more than 600 confirmed monkeypox cases, Illinois has the nation’s fifth-highest case count. Only New York, California, Florida and Texas have higher numbers.