As local schools start back up, health officials keep wary eye on COVID and monkeypox

·3 min read
Students load onto buses at the end of a school day in November in Coventry Township.
Students load onto buses at the end of a school day in November in Coventry Township.

Remember when the biggest back-to-school worry was finding a dozen Ticonderoga pencils and a black three-ring binder?

Me neither.

Back to school 2022 brings some familiar health worries and even a new one as districts in northern Ohio open their doors this week and next.

Coronavirus is still with us − although relaxed CDC recommendations may mean fewer quarantines and perhaps less of a chance that students will have a mask mandate.

Although it is likely that a student who visits the school nurse or health clinic at least at the start of the school year will be asked to put on a mask.

New CDC Covid guidelines: CDC adjusts quarantine guidelines for coronavirus

When does school start?: Here's the full list of first days for the area

A new health concern has some worried.

In addition to worries about COVID-19, health and school officials are having to pay attention to a new virus − monkeypox.

And parents should pay attention too.

Like coronavirus, monkeypox has similar initial symptoms.

Monkeypox symptoms include:

  • Fever.

  • Chills.

  • Swollen lymph nodes.

  • Exhaustion.

  • Muscle aches and backache.

  • Headache.

  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)

Dr. Evelyn Scott Pangonis, a pediatric infectious disease specialist for Akron Children's Hospital, said so far there's no reason just yet for parents or kids for that matter to lose any sleep over the threat of monkeypox in schools.

Pangonis said the instances of pediatric monkeypox cases are extremely rare and there have been none locally involving a child.

First Summit County monkeypox case: Case involves a resident who contracted monkeypox while traveling

From what we know so far, Pangonis said, the virus is transmitted from close skin-to-skin contact.

"I don't think we will see a lot of cases," Pangonis said. "As a parent I'm not super worried about it."

A bigger and immediate concern remains the coronavirus.

COVID-19 remains a concern

The virus is still among us, Pangonis said, and the latest variant is much more contagious and widespread.

The difference today compared to a year ago thankfully is the availability of vaccines for all school age students.

Thanks to the vaccine, Pangonis said, those who are vaccinated are not getting too sick with this latest variant and are not requiring hospitalization.

And yes − vaccine or not and even if you have had Covid before − you can get this latest variant and sadly new strains that likely will arise.

The best advice, Pangonis said, is to get the booster or a first dose if you haven't already done so to ensure you or your kid won't get too ill from the virus.

It is also a good idea to get the flu vaccine this year too.

And to ensure others don't get ill, keep your kids home from school if they are not feeling well or have a fever or other symptoms.

The Summit County Health Department offers these three back to school Coronavirus tips:

  • Stay home when you are sick with any illness.

  • Continue to isolate for the required amount of time.

  • The CDC recommends utilizing the CDC local Community Levels to indicate the need for social distancing and mask usage in crowded places where it is difficult to maintain distancing if you are at higher risk for severe illness.

Craig Webb can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: COVID and monkeypox create health worries for back to school