KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Students across the Kansas City area are heading back to school soon, which means another season being inside right as public health officials are tracking another spreading virus.

More monkeypox cases are popping up across the nation after the virus started showing up in Europe a few months ago. Experts say it’s normally rare outside parts of Africa and even more rare to spread from one person to another. Usually, people catch it directly from exotic animals.

But as the winter months put more metro youth in close quarters again, day care facilities and pediatricians say they’re optimistic it will remain rare in children but they’re still looking closely to catch any change early.

Something as simple as a diaper change at Emily Barnes’ Barnes Child Care is filled with steps to keep everyone safe. That’s why she’s confident state regulation on top of COVID protocols can keep her and the kids she cares for healthy.

“As we are going through our day, washing our hands, following the diaper protocols, all these things are in our regulation so I’m going to continue following our regulations,” Barnes said.

She’s also the Vice President and Advocacy Chairperson for the Childcare Providers Coalition of Kansas, helping other day care operators navigate the challenges of the industry in general. Over the last two years, that has included a lot of attention to preventing diseases from spreading.

Barnes said information just came down from local officials Wednesday about what symptoms to look out for related to monkeypox.

Right now, monkeypox isn’t a big concern in young kids. Experts like Children’s Mercy Hospital’s Dr. Christelle Ilboudo are still trying to learn more about the outbreak’s impact on the human population as it moves mostly through adults.

“What we do know is that the children that have had it have done well as far as the progression through that illness,” Ilboudo said.

She says there have only been a couple cases in children so far to judge from.

This largely has to do with the fact that it spreads through contact that’s so close and intimate it’s largely spread through sex, generally among men who have sex with other men.

It can also pass through touching legions on someone’s skin, inhaling their respiratory droplets, or by touching the same surface before it’s cleaned. Some spread has happened between people who live together, but in public, Missouri Department of Health Assistant Bureau Chief in the Bureau of Communicable Control and Prevention Nathan Koffarnus said we’re generally pretty safe.

“Clothed individuals who are in a school setting or a business setting or something like that are likely at very low risk from their co-workers or classmates,” Koffarnus said.

But, he says viruses don’t discriminate.

“It’s only a matter of time until this spreads into a broader population and it won’t take much to jump, unfortunately,” said Koffarnus.

Staying healthy looks a lot like it did during COVID outbreaks: washing hands, cleaning the things you share with other people, and being ready to stay home.

“When you’re sick, really stay home and take care of yourself and I think that’s the message that’s going to help us if Monkeypox does become a thing in the pediatric population,” said Dr. Ilboudo.

“We’re not sending kids home because it’s fun, we’re sending kids home because we’re following the rules,” Barnes said.

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