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Island residents warned of county chickenpox outbreak

By Staff | May 19, 2010

Last week, the City of Sanibel received notification from the Lee County Health Department: that more than 40 cases of chickenpox have been confirmed in children from all parts of Lee County in the past three months.

According to officials with the Lee County Health Department, the disease is not isolated to any school or section of the county and is presenting in children of all ages who attend public and private schools, as well as daycare facilities.

Also, the majority of the children confirmed with the disease have had at least one dose of the chickenpox vaccine. Even if your child has had one dose of chickenpox vaccine, it is possible to still acquire the disease.

“All children who have celebrated their third birthday should receive two doses of chickenpox vaccine in order to add protection from getting the disease. For children in second grade and higher they may have received only one dose of chicken pox vaccine when they entered school, so get the second dose for your child if you have not already done so,” said Judith A. Hartner, M.D., M.P.H., M.P.A., Director of the Lee County Health Department.

According to Barbara Von Harten, principal at The Sanibel School, no cases of the disease have been reported at the facility. The school comprises approximately 375 students enrolled in grades kindergarten through eight.

Chicken pox is a highly contagious disease that is easily transmitted in class room settings. It has an incubation period of anywhere from 10 to 21 days after contact but the most contagious period is from 1 to 2 days before the rash appears until right after it appears. An infected person no longer spreads the virus when all the blisters have scabs and no new blisters are forming. Children should not return to school until all blisters have scabbed.

Hartner stated that if you notice small red bumps on your child that resemble bug bites or a rash, accompanied by itching, fever and tiredness, please keep your child home from school and contact your medical provider for further evaluation.

Some signs and symptoms to look for include:

• Rash (i.e. small, red bumps blistering over 3-4 days, then forming scabs)

• Blister crops will erupt over several days, so the person who has chickenpox for more than a day or so will have some red bumps, blisters, and scabbed-over blisters all at the same time.

• Rash is more noticeable on the trunk than exposed parts of the body.

• Rash may appear inside mouth, ears, genital areas and scalp.

• Fever, runny rose, cough.

The first or second dose of chickenpox vaccine may be received free of charge to all children aged 12 months through 18 years at the following Lee County Health Department locations.

— Fort Myers (3920 Michigan Avenue) Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday from 1 to 3 p.m.

— Bonita Springs (9751 Bonita Beach Road – First Presbyterian Church) Tuesday, June 1 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

— Lehigh Acres (5624 8th Street West, Suite 106) Thursday, June 3 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Parents are requested to please bring their immunization records if coming to a health department location. For more information about chickenpox, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/stats-surv/vasp/default.htm or call the Lee County Health Department at 239-332-9601.

(Executive Editor Jeff Lysiak contributed to this report.)