Two Spokane area elementary
schools have been experiencing outbreaks of chickenpox. This has prompted the
Spokane Regional Health District to take action to stop the spread of the
disease, based on recommendations from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and made in consultation with the
Washington State Department of Health, and Spokane Public Schools officials.
Students from Madison Elementary School and
Holmes Elementary School who are at risk for acquiring the disease are being
kept home from school until an outbreak of chickenpox has ended, or until their
parents can provide proof of vaccination or immunity.
Parents of students have been sent a letter alerting them that chickenpox is
occurring and urging them to vaccinate their children and to provide updated
shot records in case the disease spreads.
people believe that chickenpox is a mild, expected disease of childhood,
chickenpox can be very serious," said Bill Edstrom, epidemiologist for the
Spokane Regional Health District. "For this reason, Washington State began a
phased-in requirement for all school children to be vaccinated against this
disease. Vaccine has been available and recommended for all children since
During an outbreak,
all children, staff and other adults who are working or volunteering in the
affected classrooms and who are at risk for the disease are sent home in order
to stop the spread of the illness, as recommended by the CDC. Currently,
children and staff in the affected classrooms without proof of vaccination or
previous disease are being sent home for up to 21 days. If the outbreak
continues, this exclusion may be expanded to include all students and staff
without proof of vaccination or previous disease.
It is not possible
to predict who will have a mild case of chickenpox and who will have a serious
or even deadly case of disease. Even with uncomplicated cases, children with
chickenpox miss an average of 5-6 days of school, and parents or other
caregivers miss 3-4 days of work to care for sick children. Compared with
children, adults are at increased risk of complications related to
Vaccination is the
best way to prevent infection with varicella-the virus that causes
chickenpox-both in an individual and in the community. Widespread vaccination
also reduces the risk of exposure to infection for persons at risk for serious
disease who cannot be vaccinated because of illness or other conditions. The
vaccine is safe and effective.
vaccine is available at most doctors' offices, and at the Spokane Regional
Health District's public health clinic (324-1600).
The Spokane Regional Health
District has been promoting and protecting the health of the citizens of
Spokane for 37 years. Public health succeeds by identifying and addressing
patterns of disease, illness, and injury in populations. Through the use of population-based
strategies for disease and injury prevention, public health has contributed to
the decline in illness and injury, including heart disease and stroke,
tobacco-related diseases, infectious diseases and motor vehicle and workplace