Mitchell County chickenpox outbreak in schools, day cares

Chickenpox is a childhood disease that can be prevented with two doses of the vaccine

An outbreak of chickenpox is infecting children in Mitchell County: Children in two schools and two day care centers in Camilla are coming down with symptoms of chickenpox according to Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant. She says cases of the disease have been confirmed in approximately 30 kids.

Health officials do not know the original case that caused the outbreak, but Grant says incomplete immunization in community leaves room for outbreaks. Chickenpox outbreaks in settings such as schools can last up to six months, according to Southwest Health District officials.

Chickenpox is spread by respiratory droplets or direct contact with the rash of an infected person. Those who are exposed to the disease are infectious for one to two days before the first raised red spot appears.

Grant says if your child shows symptoms, keep them home. Until all of the blisters have formed scabs, health officials say children should not attend school or go to work.

"Just be on the lookout if their kids start running a fever or start having upper respiratory symptoms or running nose -- these are symptoms that may proceed the rash," she says.

Grant says if your child does develop chickenpox, avoid giving them aspirin or products that contain aspirin, which has been linked to Reyes Syndrome.

Health officials say the best defense against chickenpox is two doses of the vaccine. They say make sure you and your children are up to date on the immunization.

Consistent hand washing as well as covering sneezes and coughs will also help prevent the disease from spreading.

Grant says health officials are making rounds as schools in the Camilla area and will send kids with symptoms home as a precautionary measure. If your child is sent home, they say take them to the doctor as soon as possible to see if they have chickenpox or not.

If you are pregnant and have been exposed to chickenpox, Grant says to promptly inform your obstetrician.

Chickenpox is not the first vaccine preventable disease to break out recently in South Georgia. In 2010, there was a rise in cases of whooping cough. There have also been reported cases of measles.

For more information about chickenpox or immunizations, contact your county health department, your healthcare provider or visit the Southwest Public Health and Centers for Disease Control websites.