by Cindy Sapp
Orcas Island School Nurse
An Orcas Island elementary school student has a confirmed case of chickenpox (Varicella). The rash started on May 24. Because chickenpox is highly contagious, we are alerting all parents of students who may have been exposed to the illness.
Varicella, commonly known as chickenpox, is an infectious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which results in a blister-like rash, tiredness and fever. The varicella virus spreads from person to person by direct contact or through the air from an infected person’s coughing or sneezing.
A person with the disease is contagious one to two days before the rash appears and until all the blisters have formed scabs. It takes 10 to 21 days after exposure for someone to develop skin lesions. This means that anyone exposed to this child from May 22 through 23 may develop symptoms between June 1 and 12.
Parents of immunosuppressed students are advised to follow up with their medical provider to inform them of the exposure to chickenpox.
Any woman who is pregnant or could be pregnant, including school staff, and who were possibly exposed are also advised to follow up with their provider.
Per Washington state law, parents of children without evidence of immunity from varicella are advised to have their child vaccinated with the appropriate dose of varicella vaccine. If vaccination is contraindicated or refused, unimmunized children will be excluded from school for up to 21 days after the last case is identified.
Chickenpox symptoms can include fever, general fatigue, a runny nose, sneezing and congestion. Pink spots and tiny fluid-filled blisters may be the first sign of the illness.
If your child presents with these symptoms between June 1 and 12, please keep them home until the rash is completely gone and all the blisters have dried. Seek medical attention and notify the school nurse if you suspect chickenpox.
About 15 to 20 percent of people who have received one dose of the varicella vaccine do still get chickenpox if they are exposed, but their disease is usually mild and they can still be contagious. In the most recent studies, children who have received the current recommendations of two varicella vaccinations were three times less likely to get chickenpox than those who have had only one dose.
Vaccinations are available through San Juan County Health and Community Services by appointment at 360-378-4474.