Should Parents Worry About Mpox?


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On November 28, 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended changing the name of monkeypox disease to mpox. Mpox will officially become the preferred term after a one-year transition period. The WHO cited a racist stigma as the reason for the change. It was known as monkeypox at the time of publication of this article, but we have updated it to reflect the name change.

Key Takeaways

  • The current risks of mpox to most individuals in the U.S. is low according to the CDC.
  • Symptoms of mpox include fever, fatigue, and a bumpy, blistery rash.
  • Experts agree that there is no significant risk to children at the moment and parents don’t need to worry about mpox right now.

Headlines about a rise in cases of mpox around the world and in the U.S. can be scary. If you’re a parent, you may be wondering what this news means for you and your children. At this point, experts agree the risk of mpox to the vast majority of people is low. Still, it’s understandable parents would be concerned about mpox, and want to know what the risks are to their children—now or in the future.

UPDATE: July 25, 2022

The first two children have been diagnosed with mpox in the United States. One is a toddler in California, the other is not from the U.S. but was diagnosed in Washington, D.C. The children are reportedly being treated and in good health. Officials are investigating how they became infected. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the spread of mpox a global health emergency. The mpox outbreak has now expanded to 70 countries. The emergency declaration allows for more investment in fighting the disease and ensures the world takes it seriously.

What Is Mpox?

Mpox is an infection caused by orthopoxvirus, and is in the same family as smallpox. While mpox causes bumpy lesions, it’s not in the same virus family as chickenpox, which is caused by the varicella virus.  

The mpox virus was first discovered in Africa in 1958. Although it was discovered in monkeys—which is how it got its name—it’s not clear how it originated in monkeys. Mpox is also commonly seen in non-human primates and in rodents, such as squirrels and rats.

Typically, mpox is a less severe and less contagious infection than smallpox. Some individuals can experience serious illness from mpox, particularly children under the age of 8, pregnant people, and people who are immunosuppressed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) points out mpox is much less contagious than COVID-19.

Mpox is spread from prolonged contact with an animal or human who is infected. It is mostly spread through close contact with respiratory fluids, lesions, and body fluids. After you are exposed to mpox, it can take about 6-13 days for symptoms to develop.

The same vaccine used for smallpox is effective against mpox. Most people aren’t routinely vaccinated against smallpox anymore, but if you are exposed to mpox, the smallpox vaccine may offer you protection, according to the CDC.

Mpox Vaccine

At this point, there is no mpox or smallpox vaccine for children. There is a two-dose vaccine approved for those over the age of 18 in the U.S. called Jynneos. On June 28, the Biden Administration announced it was making 56,000 doses immediately available to fight mpox, with another 240,000 in the weeks following. U.S. officials are also promising up to a million more doses in the near future. The Government is prioritizing areas of the country with the highest mpox rates and the highest number of people at risk. There is a second vaccine known as ACAM2000, which is more commonly used for smallpox. However, health officials say it has a greater risk of side effects and cannot be given to those who are immunocompromised or those with heart disease.

Symptoms of Mpox in Kids

Mpox symptoms are similar in both kids and adults, says Oladele A. Ogunseitan, PhD, professor of population health & disease at the University of California, Irvine. The main signs of infection are fluid-filled lesions on the skin, Dr. Ogunseitan explains. However, the infection doesn’t start off with those telltale bumps. “The period of virus invasion of the body is characterized by fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle pain, and lack of energy,” he describes.

The mpox rash has a typical progression of its own, explains Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD, a pediatrician and consultant for Mom Loves Best. “Initially, the rash is flat spots that progress from raised bumps to fluid-filled blisters,” she says. “Then pus white-yellow filled sores, then finally scabs.” Importantly, Dr. Poinsett notes, a person with mpox is contagious from the moment they have initial symptoms until the spots are completely scabbed over.

Symptoms of mpox typically resolve within two to four weeks, as reported by the CDC.

What Are the Risks of Mpox to Children?

Most cases of mpox are confined to central and west Africa, but sometimes outbreaks outside the region happen. The current outbreak has spread throughout the world, including in the U.S. The CDC notes the risk to the overall U.S. population is currently low.

Scott Pangonis, MD, MS, FAAP, pediatric infectious disease physician at Akron Children’s Hospital says at this time, the chance that your child will become infected with mpox is unlikely. “Luckily, there have been no U.S. cases of children becoming infected,” he points out. Still, children can become infected. “Children make up a large number of the cases in Africa where mpox is more common,” Dr. Pangonis points out.

How Worried Should Parents Be About Mpox?

It's important to reiterate that the current risk to all Americans, including kids, is considered low. Dr. Poinsett says that while it’s true there are currently cases of community transmission of the virus in the U.S., this is only happening between people who have lengthy, close personal contact with an infected individual. “Parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms of mpox but not excessively worry,” she assures.

Dr. Pangonis agrees. “I do not think parents should worry about mpox at this time given the lack of cases in kids,” he says. At the same time, parents should stay up-to-date on the news, as things may change as the outbreak progresses. “My concern level as a parent would rise if the number of cases in my area increased,” Dr. Pangonis added.

Do Parents Need to Take Precautions Against Mpox?

Although the risk of you or your child contracting mpox is currently low, if you were in contact with someone who had mpox, it’s important that you take precautions, says Dr. Ogunseitan.

“Anyone who thinks that might have been exposed should quarantine and practice the same hygienic practices that we are now used to in response to COVID-19, including washing hands, and social distancing,” Dr. Ogunseitan explains. If someone in your household comes into direct contact with mpox, vaccination may also be recommended. This is something you should speak to your healthcare provider about for more information.

If you hear of local outbreaks in your area, or your child’s daycare or school, many of the common sense hygiene methods used to prevent other infections, including COVID-19, will also help with mpox, says Dr. Ogunseitan.

Good hand hygiene is particularly important with mpox since it’s often transmitted through respiratory and bodily fluids. The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, especially if you think you may have come into contact with an animal or human who is infected with mpox.

What This Means For You

As parents, it’s easy to get worried about new outbreaks of serious diseases—especially after the past few years of living through the COVID-19 pandemic. You can take comfort in knowing the current risk of mpox to your children and your family is low. As with everything else, continue to watch the news for updates. If you have any concerns or believe you may have been exposed to mpox, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider.

11 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox in multiple countries.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox: Signs and symptoms.

  3. World Health Organization. Second meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) Emergency Committee regarding the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About Monkeypox.

  5. World Health Organization. Monkeypox.

  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. What is monkeypox?.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox: Vaccine guidance.

  8. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Jynneos.

  9. The White House. FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration's Monkeypox Outbreak Response.

  10. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. ACAM2000.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox: Prevention.

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.