Doctor on back-to-school safety as coronavirus variants, monkeypox spread

ABC News medical contributor and Stanford Children’s Health physician Dr. Alok Patel discusses COVID-19 and monkeypox safety as schools and universities reopen.
5:21 | 08/16/22

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Transcript for Doctor on back-to-school safety as coronavirus variants, monkeypox spread
- In other COVID news, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden has tested positive for COVID-19. The White House says she's experiencing mild symptoms and has been prescribed Paxlovid. Dr. Biden is fully vaccinated and double boosted. For more, let's bring in ABC News medical contributor Dr. Alok Patel. Dr. Patel, good to see you, friend. So we know the first lady is taking Paxlovid. Remind us about this drug, how effective and safe it is. - Well, Kenneth, first I have to say, thank you for your shout out. If it wasn't for my TV lighting, people could see that I'm blushing. But it's an honor to be here. Now, in some good news that Dr. Jill Biden, from what we have heard, is experiencing mild symptoms. She is fully vaccinated, including double boosted. And she's on the antiviral Paxlovid. Now, it's important for people out there to understand that Paxlovid, the initial trial was in those individuals who were unvaccinated. Found to be up to 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations in that age group. And now, it's recommended for people out there who are aged 12 and above with underlying medical conditions or those who are elderly, a situation that would put you at higher risk of getting severe symptoms. But generally speaking, if you're under the age of 50, you're relatively healthy, and you're fully vaccinated and boosted, you may not need to get Paxlovid. So for anyone out there who has questions, maybe COVID-positive, chat with your health professional. Don't just go running and try and get one of these medications because we suspect that it's being overprescribed. - Got it. All right, so we know the president recently had COVID and was considered a close contact of the first lady. No surprise there. Is he still at risk now that his wife tested positive? ALOK PATEL: Much less so based on all the science that we know. And I don't want to speculate anything, but Dr. Jill Biden's diagnosis positive test came about nine days after. President Biden tested negative. We know he's fully vaccinated. He's obviously boosted and he has that extra dose of natural immunity now from his previous infection, which was presumably from BA.5. Now, even still, he is following, from what we know, CDC guidelines and will be quarantining away from Dr. Jill Biden as long as she is testing positive and has symptoms. And we know that people in the White House, including the president and the first lady, follow stricter protocols than everyone else does. So we'll be watching closely as they continue to get serially tested. - We are wishing the first lady a speedy recovery. I think she's vacationing down there in my home state of South Carolina on Kiawah Island still. That's a nice place to recover. I know from personal experience. But I do want to-- - Fair. [INAUDIBLE] - Yes, definitely. So I mentioned your an ABC News contributor, you're a doctor, a pediatrician. You're also a daddy, a mack daddy. But let me pivot now to talk about the kids because we know that schools and universities across the country are back in session. How can parents keep their kids safe as we face COVID and now monkeypox? - Kenneth great questions. Now, I'll put pediatrician and mack daddy hat both on right now and tell parents, the first thing to do is just follow the instructions, be aware, but don't necessarily panic. Firstly, talking about COVID, we have to get those vaccination numbers up when it comes to kids age six months and five. We were seeing about 5% of kids in the country having one shot. We're still at about 30% for 5 to 11. We're heading into a new school year. The one thing that we want to all do from every side of this country, everyone agrees, is keep schools open. And that is gonna take a combination of individual protection, whether that is getting vaccinated, wearing those masks, making sure kids are tested if they're symptomatic. But also make sure those schools are following protocols as well, have good ventilation. Now, regarding monkeypox, Kenneth, the most important thing is something that you just said is that kids can get it. This is not just a virus that is confined to one group of individuals, even if they are at higher risk and showing the majority of cases. So parents should be on the lookout if their kids have kind of a new rash that they haven't seen before or if there's any close contact with someone who has monkeypox. When in doubt, chat with your doctor. - All right, yeah, we know an eighth child in the US has tested positive for monkeypox in Texas there. Dr. Patel, I really appreciate your time. But before you go, we know the CDC says pets-- we understand that pets and other animals, including dogs, can be infected with monkeypox. It's currently unknown exactly how, I think. But school me on this, what do you know? And can pets get monkeypox and transfer it on? ALOK PATEL: Absolutely, Kenneth. This is actually nothing new. So we know that monkeypox since it was discovered is a zoonotic virus, meaning it can jump from pet-- from animals to humans and vise versa. In fact, the last outbreak in the United States in 2013 was caused by prairie dogs being sold as pets. In fact, a child was bitten by one and got monkeypox. And according to the CDC, not only dogs, but cats, but if anyone out there has a hedgehog, for example, as a pet, these can all carry monkeypox. In this specific case, we want to find more details. But from what we've seen in initial reports, this is a couple who had monkeypox. They isolated their dog away from others. But they still shared a bed with their dog. And as all pet owners know, it's fun to cuddle our furry companions. But just be aware that if you have monkeypox you can actually transmit that on to your beloved furry animal. KENNETH MOTON: Good information. Hedgehog, Dr. Patel, is-- are you giving us some insight into your-- - That's true. - --childhood and what you wanted? - That is true. Listen, I'm a huge fan of Sonic the Hedgehog. And if I could have a rodent pet, I would get a hedgehog all day long. - All right, I was pretty good at Sonic the Hedgehog when I was a kid. Dr. Patel, we got to leave it there. I'm being told to wrap it up, I think, because we're having a little bit too much fun. It's good to see you, sir. Thank you again. Appreciate it. - I have no apologies for talking about Sonic the Hedgehog. Kenneth, thank you. - [LAUGHS] Thank you, sir.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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