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Monkeypox case reported at Sycamore High School

Here’s what symptoms to watch for, and how to obtain a test or monkeypox vaccination if applicable

Sycamore High School sign in Sycamore on Thursday, May 13, 2021.

DeKALB – An individual at Sycamore High School has tested positive for monkeypox, according to a correspondence from Sycamore Community School District 427 officials to district families sent out Wednesday.

In the correspondence shared with the Daily Chronicle, district officials said they were notified of the case by the DeKalb County Health Department Wednesday afternoon. The health department said staff and students should be monitoring themselves “for the presence of new, unexplained vesicular or pustular lesions,” according the district’s email.

District 427 spokesperson Lauren Holtz said the person confirmed to have monkeypox was last in the school building Wednesday. Holtz said the district won’t specify whether the case was identified in a student or district employee because of the district’s confidentiality policies.

Holtz said the district’s sanitization protocols – which started as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – are still in place.

“We are strongly recommending that all individuals experiencing symptoms undergo testing,” Holtz said. “Once an individual has tested positive for MPV [monkeypox], a healthcare provider letter clearing the person for return is required.”

As of Wednesday, of 1,263 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Illinois, DeKalb County has three of them, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The first confirmed case in the county was reported Aug. 25 in a student from Northern Illinois University.

Monkeypox is a viral disease that can be transmitted between humans through direct contact with lesions or infected body fluids, or exposure to respiratory droplets from a close, face-to-face interaction.

As a result of the case, district officials told Sycamore families Wednesday the health department has issued further guidance to help limit further spread of the virus. That also includes monitoring those inside school buildings for symptoms, encouraging those who feel ill to remain at home, practice hand-washing, and limit sharing of personal items and cleaning surfaces at least once per day to reduce the risk of germs spreading by touching surfaces.

“Any persons with MPV [monkeypox] should remain out of school until MPV symptoms have resolved, the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations,” the school district’s news release said.

Infected school staff or students may return at the recommendation of local health officials, district 427′s correspondence stated, but they should wear a well-fitted mask and cover all lesions with clothing, gloves, or bandages.

“They should not participate in events that are crowded, involve close contact (e.g., wrestling) or where a bandage can’t be worn (e.g., swimming),” the news release said.

Testing and where to find a vaccine if applicable

DeKalb County Health Department and Sycamore School District officials are “strongly recommending that all individuals experiencing symptoms” of MPV get tested for the virus, according to the correspondence.

Lisa Gonzalez, county health department administrator, said the department is not currently offering monkeypox testing.

However, she confirmed tests can be obtained through DeKalb County area healthcare providers and urgent care clinics.

Those interested in obtaining a test should note that, depending on where they solicit a test, there could be a fee attached. According to the CDC, tests conducted by public health departments are usually free, while tests obtained through a private healthcare provider could have a cost attached.

Gonzalez confirmed the health department is not offering monkeypox vaccinations to everyone at this time. Only those who have been identified as a close contact to a confirmed positive case will be eligible for a vaccine. Anyone experiencing a new or unexplained rash, sores or other symptoms associated with monkeypox is encouraged to contact their health care provider or a doctor, health officials said.

The monkeypox vaccine would be administered without a cost to the individual receiving it, Gonzalez said.

“Currently, it is recommended that the vaccine be given within 4 days of the known exposure, but can be administered up to 14 days after exposure,” said Gonzalez.

Sycamore Community School District 427 said it “will continue to work closely with the Dekalb County Health Department and provide updates to families if there are new developments or recommendations,” and is encouraging staff and students to stay home if ill.

Symptoms to watch for

Monkeypox is a virus commonly transmitted through intimate physical contact, close skin-to-skin contact, the sharing of objects, fabrics and materials, or being bitten or scratched by an infected animal.

People should watch for a rash that may be located on or near the genitals or anus, or could be on other areas such as the hands, feet, fast, chest or mouth, according to the CDC.

The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing, and can initially look like pimples or blisters, and be painful or itchy. Other symptoms can include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, muscle aches or backache, headache, respiratory symptoms such as a sore throat, cough or nasal congestion.

Some people may experience all or only a few symptoms, and vary in order of symptoms and rash, or develop a rash first. The CDC says symptoms usually start within three weeks of exposure, with a rash appearing within four days of flu-like symptoms. The illness typically lasts two to four weeks.

Gonzalez previously said washing one’s hands, avoiding contact with items that an infected person has used and isolating are some ways to keep oneself safe.

The health department plans to conduct case investigation and contact tracing for monkeypox in-house rather than leaving it up to the schools to handle, officials said.

If anyone comes down with symptoms, health officials advise that one get tested and isolate until the results are received and all rashes and scabs have healed. Tests are only conducted through a health care provider, according to the CDC, and usually consist of a swab of the lesion or rashes. The swab is then sent to a lab for testing, with results expected in a few days.

The CDC asks those awaiting tests results to take precautions until a confirmation is known.

But if one tests negative, they are instructed to isolate for about two to four weeks and then be cleared by their physician.