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Monkeypox in Washington

Written by Sydney Spack, Red & Black Contributor

Within Washington County, there has been little talk about the disease known as monkeypox. Monkeypox is characterized by a number of symptoms, most notably the rash that develops and appears as pimples on the skin. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, those with the disease also experience fever, headaches, exhaustion, and respiratory problems alongside the ever-changing rash.

The White House declared monkeypox a public health emergency in August of 2022. (Courtesy: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Talk of the disease was sparse in Washington County until a recent scare was made apparent to the city. WPXI reported that Washington Park Elementary School suspected four students of potentially having the disease due to various symptoms. Parents were notified on Sept. 21 of these suspicions via letter. Immediately following this announcement, each of the children thought to have monkeypox were tested at Washington Hospital. The school combatted this spread of the disease by completely sanitizing all classrooms.

By Sept. 26, parents were notified yet again, this time with more comforting news. They were informed that all four tests came back negative. According to Barbara Nightingale, the deputy director of clinical services in Allegheny County, monkeypox cases in young children are extremely rare, but many childhood illnesses can appear similar to that of the disease. WPXI spoke to George Lammay, superintendent of the Washington School District, who explained the difficulties he faced in informing parents and caretakers by saying, “The hard thing from my perspective is being communicative without created chaos.”

“The hard thing from my perspective is being communicative without created chaos.” ~ George Lammay

As of Sept. 26, the CDC has reported only 727 cases of the disease in all of Pennsylvania. Although the incident at Washington Park Elementary School created a slight level of panic within parts of the community, it brought attention to the disease. Unlike COVID-19, it is not highly contagious and is typically contracted through skin-to-skin contact. Being in the same room as an individual diagnosed with monkeypox does not mean one will be diagnosed with it as well. The same cannot be said with COVID-19; due to it being spread through the respiratory system, the odds of contraction are significantly greater. Knowing and understanding these differences are crucial, especially during the back-to-school season for children and adults.

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