Your Back-to-School Questions Answered: COVID-19, Monkeypox, and more!
The weather says it’s summer but the calendar tells us it’s back-to-school time. I’ve always loved the start of a new school year, but this year many have questions and apprehensions about not only COVID, but Monkeypox as well. Let’s tackle these questions and more!
Your Back-to-School Supply List
In addition to backpacks and pencils, here are some other things to make sure you are thinking about.
Whenever I am asked what supplement kids should take to help their immune system, Vitamin S is my answer. It not only strengthens the immune system, it helps improve learning and memory, increase focus and attention, helps with managing emotions, and it’s free! I am talking about sleep, of course. Making sure your child or teen is getting enough sleep is crucial for physical, emotional and educational well-being.
If you’re my patient you’ve heard me say this: breakfast is non-negotiable. Even if your teen isn’t hungry in the morning, have them choose 2-3 things they can eat or drink in the morning to give their brain cells some energy.
Although not required, masks are still a beneficial part of COVID protection, especially if your child or a family member is unvaccinated or at high-risk. Choose a well-fitting, multi-layered mask.
Making sure your family is up-to-date on their COVID vaccines is the most important step you can take to prevent COVID-19 infections and complications. It’s almost time for flu vaccine as well, and since during the last two years many have fallen behind on vaccines, making sure you are up-to-date on all recommended vaccines is vital to protect from disease outbreaks such as those seen with polio and measles.
If your child has symptoms, check with the school about infection policies, mask up, and test for COVID-19. False negative tests are common in the first few days of an illness with Omicron, so test every other day for three tests. Don’t throw away those old tests. Check the FDA site for updated expiration dates, and don’t forget that insurance pays for 8 tests per member per month; check with your pharmacist.
The AAP has more recommendations for a safe and healthy back-to-school.
Bivalent COVID-19 boosters were approved on 9/2/22 and should be available in many places this week. Bivalent boosters cover two variants of COVID, the original and the BA.5 Omicron variant. The Pfizer one, which we will carry, is approved for ages 12 and older, and the Moderna one for 18 and older. These can be given a minimum of 2 months after completing the primary series or a booster, but it may be beneficial to wait 3-4 months.
We will send out announcements when we receive doses of the bivalent booster, but they will be available at larger venues before we receive it. Find out more on the OHA vaccine page.
Here is a summary of recommended COVID vaccine doses:
- 6 months – 4 years – We have Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available, call for an appointment.
- 5 – 11 years – We have Pfizer doses available for the primary series (2 doses) and the original booster (5 months after completing the primary series). Call for an appointment. We anticipate bivalent boosters for this age group later in the year.
- 12 years and older – We have Pfizer doses available for the primary 2-dose series. We recommend getting the bivalent booster, and will send out notifications when we receive it.
We will be hosting two drive-though vaccine clinics and will send out notifications when scheduling opens; tentative dates are Saturday, 9/24/22 and Sunday, 10/16/22. We will have both injectable and the nasal vaccine available, but the nasal vaccine goes fast; we recommend making an appointment as soon as the schedule opens.
While COVID and flu vaccines can be given at the same time, we will not be offering COVID vaccines at these drive-through flu clinics due to logistics.
We have been getting a lot of questions about Monkeypox, so here are some answers.
What is Monkeypox
Monkeypox is a disease caused by a virus related to smallpox; they are both part of the orthopoxvirus family. Monkeypox is a less severe illness than smallpox and most infections resolve without complications, but it can be very painful and at times serious. It was first recognized in humans in 1970 and there have been prior outbreaks. However, this outbreak is different in that it has spread to multiple countries rapidly. The WHO and the United States have both declared this outbreak a public health emergency so that resources can be used to treat and contain it.
How it is spread
Monkeypox is spread primarily through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, including both sexual activity as well as non-sexual physical contact. It can also be spread through respiratory droplets, but is not nearly as contagious as COVID-19. While it can be spread via objects that have been exposed to the rash or the fluid from the blisters, this is extremely unlikely in the community setting as the exposure would be very low; this form of transmission would be more of a concern in the hospital room or home of someone infected, where there could be a high number of virus present.
The rash usually, but not always, starts after other symptoms of illness are present. The most common are fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes, and can also include cough, congestion and sore throat. The rash starts with red flat spots that usually begin at the same time and progress together through these stages: flat spots, bumps, blisters with clear fluid, pimple-like pustules with yellow fluid, which then crust and scab over.
In the rare event that you think your family member has these symptoms, keep them home, have them wear a mask, keep the rash covered, and call us.
Most infections are mild and clear on their own. There are medications that can be used for those with complications or at high risk of severe disease.
The best method of prevention is avoiding close contact with someone who has Monkeypox, and hand-washing.
There is a limited supply of vaccine available for those who are 18 and older and at high risk of infection, as well as those adults and children who have been exposed.
The Bottom Line
Monkeypox, while potentially serious, is still a rare disease that children are at very low risk of contracting, even at school. As of 8/31/22 there have been 169 cases total in Oregon, with only one of those cases in a child. That pediatric case was not due to community spread, but rather to a known contact to an adult case.
For more information:
What is Monkeypox? – AAP
Monkeypox Signs and Symptoms – CDC