DuBOIS — The DuBois Area School used its website, phone alert system and a letter from the superintendent last week to notify families that a DuBois Area Middle School student has been diagnosed with chickenpox.
"We notified the entire district in an attempt to inform and protect individuals that may not be vaccinated or those that may be immunocompromised," said Assistant Superintendent Wendy Benton. "Additionally, although it is highly unlikely, an individual that has been vaccinated can still contract chickenpox. Therefore, we want to inform all parents of the signs and symptoms."
The district was informed on Sept. 6 about the child contracting chickenpox (varicella), according to the letter.
"Because the virus that causes chickenpox spreads easily, exposed children who have never had the vaccine or the disease will most likely get the disease," Superintendent Luke Lansberry stated in the letter. "Although chickenpox is not usually a serious illness, it can cause severe complications such as pneumonia and can even result in death. Even a relatively mild illness can result in the loss of a week or more of class time for a child."
Children are considered to be immune to chickenpox if they:
- Have had two doses of varicella vaccine, with the first dose administered at 12 months or age or older; or
- Have laboratory evidence of immunity to varicella; or
- Have documentation of a history of varicella or herpes zoster disease diagnosed by a physician.
"Although a child's reported history of chickenpox disease from a parent or guardian is acceptable for school entry, when there is even a single chickenpox or shingles case in a school, a parent statement of history of disease is not sufficient," the letter stated.
The letter stated that the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends children who are not immune to chickenpox and have been exposed, which is defined as four hours in the vicinity of an infected person, be kept out of school beginning on day eight after their first exposure to a case of varicella until day 21 after the onset of the last case in the school.
If a child is vaccinated with the varicella vaccine within five days of their earliest exposure, he or she may return.
"It is important to note that transmission of chickenpox may occur from contact lasting less than four hours," the letter stated.
"Studies have shown that children who have been exposed to chickenpox and are vaccinated within five days of exposure are less likely to contract the disease," Lansberry said. "Please contact your child's healthcare provider to make arrangements to get your child vaccinated."
The letter stated that if a child develops chickenpox, regardless of whether or not they have received the varicella vaccine, he or she should be kept from attending school five days after onset of rash and/or until the rash has scabbed over, whichever is longer.
"Please help us to protect your child and stop the spread of chickenpox in our school," Lansberry said in the letter.
More information about chickenpox is available on the district's website.