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Adult member of Boston Public Schools community tests positive for monkeypox, officials say

A colorized transmission electron micrograph of monkeypox particles (red) found within an infected cell (blue), cultured in the laboratory that was captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Md.NIAID via AP/File

A member of the Boston Public Schools community has tested positive for monkeypox, district officials said Monday.

In an e-mail to families, incoming Superintendent Mary Skipper and Acting Superintendent Drew Echelson said “the health and well-being of our students and staff is a top priority.”

“With that in mind, we wanted to share an important update with you that the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) informed us that an adult member of our BPS community has been diagnosed with monkeypox,” they wrote.

Officials would not say whether the person works for the school system or is a member of the school community in some other capacity.

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At an unrelated news conference Monday, Mayor Michelle Wu told reporters that the health commission informed her over the weekend that a monkeypox case “had been identified in an adult at one of our schools.”

Wu said school officials are monitoring the situation closely and that she’s “very grateful for the incredible public health infrastructure that we have in the city to be able to identify things so quickly and then spring into action with resources.”

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and BPS do not have separate guidance for schools, but are following protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as local and state health authorities. District officials said they have worked with the Boston Public Health Commission and the affected person to identify and notify anyone who may have been exposed. Officials also alerted the school the person is affiliated with.

“If you did not receive an individual call or a specific school communication, your school community is not impacted,” Skipper and Echelson wrote in the e-mail to families. “We are sharing this information in accordance with our commitment to transparency and educational awareness. In general, the risk of monkeypox transmission to the community remains very low.”

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The note said the affected person is isolating until it’s safe for them to be around others. The commission will offer vaccines to exposed contacts, who can continue their normal activities as long as they don’t have symptoms.

Over the weekend, officials said, crews cleaned and disinfected the affected school building, as recommended by the CDC.

Monkeypox cases have been reported nationwide and in Massachusetts since May, but it’s unclear if this is the first known case in a Massachusetts public school district; the state Department of Public Health did not respond to an inquiry at the time of publication, and the education department is not tracking cases in schools. In July, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency, indicating that it is an “extraordinary event.”

In an interview with the Globe in July, Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said monkeypox symptoms can “start like many other viral infections, with a fever, a feeling of malaise, muscle aches, and pains.”

Monkeypox transmission occurs primarily through direct skin-to-skin contact, including sexual or close intimate contact, with an infected person with lesions. Although anyone can contract monkeypox, the current outbreak is spreading in communities of men who have sex with men.

“Transmission during brief interactions (such as a brief conversation), between people in close proximity and for a long duration (such as passengers seated near a person with monkeypox on an airplane), is unlikely to spread monkeypox,” according to the CDC website.

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According to the CDC, the risk of monkeypox to children and adolescents is low; most people who have contracted it have been adults and have not required hospitalization.

The virus causes two to four weeks of illness that can be severe, but in the current US outbreak, only two deaths, in Texas and California, occurred in people infected with monkeypox.

Experts recommend people wash their hands and avoid close skin-to-skin contact with anyone who has a rash that could be monkeypox.



Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Adria Watson can be reached at adria.watson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @adriarwatson.