Colleges, schools discussing monkeypox precautions before school year starts

Health care experts are trying to get a handle on two outbreaks nationwide and in Washington: COVID-19 and monkeypox.

The latest numbers from the CDC show Washington has 210 confirmed cases, with King County’s Health Department reporting 183 cases as of Aug. 9.

As summer comes to an end, the concern now is a continued spread of monkeypox as students go back to school. 

While King County Health Officer, Dr. Jeff Duchin, says the risk to children is very low, there are still some recommendations to help protect them.

The concern is also focused on high school and college-age students, who are more likely to have skin-to-skin contact. 

"Childcares and schools should be aware of monkeypox and should continue to follow standard hygiene practices that prevent monkeypox and other infections," Duchin said.

This includes:

  • Washing and sanitizing blankets and other bedding in childcare settings, especially if used by more than one child
  • Keeping a clean environment
  • Handwashing and sanitizing with at least 60% alcohol

Duchin strongly recommends following those precautions, since the county now has 2% of all national monkeypox cases.

"We do have a real outbreak and that's a real important outbreak, and it's something we're taking extremely seriously," Duchin said.  

Monkeypox in King County: Health estimate 20,000 people at high-risk

Public Health Seattle & King County estimates there are 20,000 people in the county who are considered high-risk for monkeypox. Another 20,000 are at moderate risk.

He estimates 20,000 people are at high risk and another 20,000 at an increased risk of contracting the virus.

However, as of Aug. 3, there have been 9,000 cases in the U.S., and only two are in children.

"Thankfully, monkeypox is not going to be as pervasive as COVID-19, but for the community that is impacted, it's just as bad in many ways," Duchin said.  

FOX13 reached out to several college campuses, including the University of Washington, regarding how they plan to prepare for the upcoming school year. 

While they were not available for an interview, they did say with classes starting Sept. 28, they’re still planning their response.

They do, however, have a page on their website with information available to students including signs and symptoms, vaccines information and how to reduce the risk:

  • Decreasing the number of sexual partners
  • Avoiding close physical contact
  • Avoiding gatherings where people wear minimal clothing and have direct skin-to-skin contact

"It can also spread through prolonged face to face contact with respiratory droplets-- those are the main ways the disease spreads. It can also spread through contact with contaminated objects in clothing," Duchin said.  

FOX 13 is waiting to hear back from several campuses, who say they’re discussing their approach to the monkeypox outbreak with student health directors, with updates coming as soon as next week.