Dear HPA Families,
This letter is to notify you there have been three confirmed cases of chickenpox, also known as varicella, at High Point Academy in our elementary school. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) considers three or more confirmed cases of chickenpox in one school to be an outbreak.
We have been in contact with DHEC, and per their requirements, any elementary student who has not received the chickenpox vaccine is not allowed to attend school for the next 21 days. Families may choose to get the chickenpox vaccine now and that students can return to school immediately with documentation. Students may also return to school if you have written physician documentation of past chickenpox disease or laboratory evidence of prior chickenpox disease. You can talk to your child’s healthcare provider or local health department about getting your child vaccinated. For an appointment at the health department, you can call 855-472-3432.
Parents or guardians of those students who are not permitted to attend school should contact the Elementary School Principal, Grey Lancaster, for school assignment information. All middle and high school students should continue to attend school as usual.
Please contact us at 864.316.9788 if you have any questions.
-The HPA Team
What is chickenpox?
Chickenpox is an illness caused by the varicella virus. It causes itchy, red blisters that break open in two or three days and then scab over. Some children will only have a few chickenpox blisters while others may have hundreds. Rare complications of chickenpox include skin infections, brain infections, and complications during pregnancy.
How is chickenpox spread?
Chickenpox is very easily spread to people who have not had it before or have not been vaccinated. Chickenpox can be spread when someone who is sick with chickenpox coughs or sneezes. It can also spread by contact with the fluid from the chickenpox blisters. Once exposed, a rash usually develops between 10 and 21 days later. A person who has chickenpox can spread it a day or two before the rash breaks out. Usually, children who catch it are sick with blisters for about four to six days.
What do I look for?
A day or two before breaking out in the chickenpox rash, many children:
- Feel bad/Have a mild fever
- Have a headache and/or body aches
- May not feel like eating
- Some children may act and feel just fine before breaking out in the chickenpox rash.
About the chickenpox vaccine:
- School-aged children in grades 6th through 12th are required to have at least one dose of varicella vaccine.
- DHEC strongly encourages all children who have not had chickenpox illness to receive two doses of the chickenpox vaccine; a second dose is strongly recommended for children who have received only one dose of vaccine and for all individuals at risk in settings where there is an outbreak of chickenpox. Exclusion criteria for school and childcare in a chickenpox outbreak:
- The school will continue to monitor for new cases. Students and staff diagnosed with chickenpox will need to be kept out of school until all lesions have crusted over.
- Currently, elementary students with no documented immunity to varicella are excluded from school. Exclusions will be extended to Middle and High School aged students if any cases are seen in that age group. Documented evidence of immunity includes 6th – 12th graders who have received at least one dose of the varicella vaccine, blood work showing immunity to varicella, or a doctor’s diagnosis of chickenpox or shingles disease. If additional cases are reported, students without documented immunity will be excluded and will not be able to attend school from the start of the outbreak until day 21 after the onset of rash in the last person diagnosed.
- For excluded students: If parents provide evidence of vaccination with at least one dose of varicella vaccine, evidence of bloodwork showing immunity to chickenpox or a doctor’s previous diagnosis of chickenpox or shingles disease, students can return to school.
- If there are unimmunized children in the home with a child diagnosed with chickenpox they must also stay home from school or daycare. The exclusion period would be from the eighth day after exposure to the rash through day 21, but those children may return to school if they receive varicella vaccine before showing signs of chickenpox. What should I do?
- If you think your child has chickenpox, call your health care provider. Make sure you tell them over the phone that you suspect chickenpox. • Check with your health care provider to make sure all your child’s vaccines are up to date.
- Notify the school nurse if your child has chickenpox or has never received the chickenpox vaccine and have not had the disease.
- Anyone who has chickenpox should avoid contact with others who have not had chickenpox or been vaccinated. They should not attend school, childcare or other gatherings until the blisters have become crusted and no new blisters appear for 24 hours.
- If you or anyone in your household has a weakened immune system, is pregnant or has never had chickenpox or chickenpox vaccine, call your health care provider immediately if they may have been exposed to chickenpox.
If you have any questions, please contact the DHEC Careline at 1-855-472-3432, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.