Kettering Schools alert parents to chickenpox outbreak

Fairmont High School

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Fairmont High School

An outbreak of seven cases of chickenpox have been identified in Kettering by health officials and led the school district to alert parents that their children should remain home if they are infected with the virus.

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Chickenpox, also known as varicella, is a highly contagious disease caused by the initial infection with varicella zoster virus. The disease results in a characteristic skin rash that forms small, itchy blisters, which eventually scab over.

It can spread through direct contact with the rash. It also can spread when a person with the chickenpox coughs or sneezes and you inhale the air droplets, according to health officials.

Cases of chickenpox have been low Montgomery County in past years. There were five confirmed cases in 2015, three in 2016, six in 2017, 10 in 2018 and six in 2019. In that same time frame there were 53 probable cases that were identified, according to Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County.

“There are a few cases per year,” Dan Suffoletto of Public Health said. “What makes this different is that there are seven cases in a limited geographic area.”

“If you suspect your child is ill with chickenpox, please inform the school and keep your child at home. Your child should remain out of school until all of the chickenpox lesions have crusted over (typically approximately six days),” a letter from the Kettering school district states.

Chickenpox is usually a mild disease but has the potential to cause severe complications in certain high risk individuals, including immunocompromised children, susceptible pregnant females, and premature infants of less than 28 weeks gestation.

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The best way to prevent a child from catching chickenpox is through vaccination. While some vaccinated children can develop a mild chickenpox infection, called “breakthrough disease,” the vaccine is 80% to 85% effective against infection and more than 95% effective against severe disease.

A second booster dose of vaccine is recommended to increase immunity and prevent “breakthrough infection.” This most often will apply to preschool-age children from 1 to 4 years, according to the school’s letter.

“Your child’s vaccination records should indicate if he or she has had the second dose of the vaccine, and your private doctor or Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County should be able to provide your child with a second dose of the vaccine, if needed,” Earley stated.

The health department has recommended that students who are unvaccinated be excluded from school for 21 days after the last identified case (March 5, 2020.)

“While the Kettering City School District is not requiring any unvaccinated students to be excluded, we do suggest that you have a conversation with your medical provider to determine what is the best course of action for your child,” Earley noted in his statement.

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Parents with questions about the announcement are asked to call the school or to contact Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County at 937-225-5700.

The itchy blister rash caused by chickenpox infection appears 10 to 21 days after exposure to the virus and usually lasts about five to 10 days. Other signs and symptoms, which may appear one to two days before the rash, include:

1) Fever

2) Loss of appetite

3) Headache

4) Tiredness and a general feeling of being unwell (malaise)

Once the chickenpox rash appears, it goes through three phases:

Raised pink or red bumps (papules), which break out over several days

Small fluid-filled blisters (vesicles), which form in about one day and then break and leak

Crusts and scabs, which cover the broken blisters and take several more days to heal

Source: CDC and Mayo Clinic.

If you think you or your child might have chickenpox, visit your doctor and advise if:

The rash spreads to one or both eyes.

The rash gets very red, warm or tender. This could indicate a secondary bacterial skin infection.

The rash is accompanied by dizziness, disorientation, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, tremors, loss of muscle coordination, worsening cough, vomiting, stiff neck or a fever higher than 102 F (38.9 C).

Anyone in the household has a problem with his or her immune system or is younger than 6 months.

Source: CDC and Mayo Clinic.

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