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Monkeypox cases rising as kids start returning to school

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The first day of school for many Mid-South students is right around the corner, but could a looming cloud of health threats, like monkeypox, be cause for concern?

On Aug. 4, the Biden administration declared monkeypox a public health emergency, reporting more than 6,000 cases.

Now just 48 hours later, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports a spike in cases, now with more than 7,500 confirmed nationwide.

Just this week, the Shelby County Health Department reported 4 presumptive cases.

“I’m just paranoid about the whole thing, so yea that’s shocking to me,” said Arkissa McClenty of Memphis.

The emergency was issued only a few days before school started.

Students are expected to be in close proximity in classroom settings.

Some parents said despite the health threat, they still trust the safety net they’ve put in place for their family.

“You can’t keep them closed in because education is very important,” said parent Emma Allen. “I’ve instilled in my children that even when school starts, they need to make sure that they are sanitizing their hands, make sure that they are washing their hands. They are just kind of keeping their distance away from everyone.”

Health experts also warn college campuses to be ready.

The CDC now provides guidance for attendance at social functions, like parties.

The agency said events, where attendees are fully clothed with no skin-to-skin contact, are safer.

However, CDC warns that clubs and parties where there is minimal clothing and direct contact have some risks.

Third-year college student Raquel Lockridge said she plans to follow safety protocols.

“It can cause some concern, but I feel like if you’re doing what you can to keep yourself protected, I don’t feel really too nervous about it,” Lockridge said.

Doctor Shirin Mazumder, Infectious Disease Specialist with Le Bonheur Healthcare, said it’s important for people to know what the symptoms are.

“It’s certainly something we are watching closely and hopefully we will have more information about spread and how public contact evolves,” said Mazumder. “If they have a rash that is compatible with monkeypox symptoms, I think it’s really important for people to seek help.”

Currently, vaccines are limited only to individuals who have had a known exposure.

Dr. Mazumder said if given within four days, the vaccine can help limit the severity of symptoms and help prevent infection.

Mazumder adds that she expects the emergency declaration will make the vaccine more widely available.

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