San Juan County Health & Community Services Issues Varicella Health Alert
A case of varicella, or “chicken pox,” has been confirmed in a school-aged child in the Lopez Island community. San Juan County Health & Community Services has alerted medical providers, and is working closely with the Lopez School District, preschools and families to investigate the varicella case, and identify others who may have been exposed.
Varicella is a highly contagious infection, and symptoms include fever, fatigue and a rash that typically progresses from the head to other parts of the body. The incubation period is 10-21 days, most commonly 14-16 days and one can be contagious from 5 days (usually 1-2 days) before onset of rash continuing until lesions have crusted over (usually about 5 days after rash onset). Siblings have a 60-100% chance of becoming infected as well. Susceptible individuals should be considered infectious for up to 21 days following an exposure.
Those most vulnerable to complications of varicella are: persons older than 15 years of age who have not been vaccinated or had the infection, newborns and infants younger than one year, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems. Complications may include severe symptoms, prolonged illness, hospitalization and death. During pregnancy, varicella pneumonia can be particularly severe and maternal infection can lead to congenital abnormalities.
We strongly recommend against intentionally exposing any child to chickenpox: first, because one cannot count on the disease running a mild course; the child could become much more sick than intended. Second, the exposed child can infect other people/individuals during the incubation period: particularly vulnerable individuals (infants, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems) for whom the course of illness can become much more serious, even dangerous.
The best way to protect against varicella is to receive a vaccine according to current vaccination guidelines. If you or your child has symptoms of varicella, please contact your health care provider for appropriate treatment. In addition, stay home and away from other people and public settings until your health care provider has evaluated you. Please call your health care provider before going to their office, as they may want to see you outside of a setting where others can be exposed.
Now is a good time for individuals and family members to review vaccination records and ensure immunizations are up to date. If vaccinations are not up to date, or you have questions about vaccinations or varicella, please contact your health care provider, or San Juan County Health & Community Services at 360-378-4474.
Additional information and resources on varicella may be found on the San Juan County Health & Community Services website: http://sanjuanco.com/420/Immunizations