Two chickenpox outbreaks reported in two southern Michigan counties since the beginning of the year has prompted health officials to urge vaccination against the viral disease.
Seven cases of chickenpox have been reported to the health department’s St. Joseph County office this past week. In January, the Michigan Disease Surveillance System confirmed seven cases in Hillsdale County. Most of these cases involved school-age children.
According to Michigan law, all students are required to be immunized with two doses of Varicella (Var) vaccine or have had a history of chickenpox disease.
Children who have not been vaccinated and have not had the disease should be vaccinated immediately with the first dose of Varicella (VAR). Once the first dose has been administered, the child can receive a second dose at the following recommended minimum interval: For children 12 months to 12 years – 2nd dose should be administered at 3 months; For children 13 years and older – 2nd dose should be administered in 28 days.
If an outbreak of chickenpox occurs in your child’s school, and your child is not immunized or does not have verification of having had the disease, your child will be excluded from school until he/she receives the first dose of varicella vaccine. If you choose to not immunize your child at all (and you cannot verify that he/she has had the disease) and an outbreak of chickenpox occurs, your child will be excluded from school for up to 21 days after the last reported case of chickenpox.
Children who are not fully immunized, meaning they have only had one dose of the Varicella vaccine or do not have verification of having had the disease, should be vaccinated immediately. If an outbreak of chickenpox occurs in your child’s school, your child will be excluded from school until the second dose is administered.
Chickenpox is a common, usually benign childhood disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), a member of the herpes family. This virus causes two distinct diseases; varicella (chickenpox) is the primary infection, and later when VSV reactivates,herpes zoster (shingles).
Chickenpox is highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing, by direct contact and by aerosolization of the virus from skin lesions. You can also get it by contact with the vesicle secretions from shingles.
The disease is characterized by fever and a red, itchy skin rash of that usually starts on the abdomen, back or face and then spreads to nearly all parts of the body. The rash begins as small red bumps that appear as pimples or insect bites. They then develop into thin-walled blisters that are filled with clear fluid which collapse on puncture. The blisters then breaks, crusts over, and leaves dry brown scabs.
The chickenpox lesions may be present in several stages of maturity and are more abundant on covered skin rather than exposed. Lesions may also be found in the mouth, upper respiratory tract and genitals.
Chickenpox is contagious from 1-2 days before the rash forms and continues until all the lesions are crusted over (usually about 5 days).
This disease is more serious in adults than in children. Complications of chickenpox are rare, but includepneumonia, encephalitis and secondary bacterial infections.
Infection with this virus usually gives lifelong immunity, although second attacks have been documented in immunocompromised people. The viral infection remains latent, and disease may recur years later as shingles.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the chickenpox vaccine is the best protection against chickenpox. The vaccine is made from weakened varicella virus that produces an immune response in your body that protects you against chickenpox. The chickenpox vaccine was licensed for use in the United States in 1995.
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