Chicken pox hits four high-schoolers in Eureka Springs, nurse reports

Monday, November 21, 2005

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Lydia Bush, school nurse for the Eureka Springs School District, is urging high school and other students who have not had chicken pox or been immunized to get a shot.

Bush reported there has been a recent "outbreak" of chicken pox at the high school.

"Four high-schoolers have had the disease in the last month," she said, adding that those parents who are not sure of their child's immunity status -- a history of having had the disease in the past or not having been immunized, should take their child to the Carroll County Health Department to receive the vaccine.

Although there is no age limit on getting the vaccine, adults who have never had the disease or been vaccinated and whose immune systems are compromised are at serious risk, Bush said.

The Carroll County Health Department will administer the vaccine for $5 for a record-keeping fee. It is also covered by Medicaid. The health department's focus and funding is on serving children from 1 to 18 years old. Adults wishing to be vaccinated should check with their family doctor.

Sherry Plumlee of the Carroll County Health Department said that in the past parents would allow their children to contract chicken pox from other children in order to confer lifelong immunity status. The vaccine delivers a much milder dose of the varicella virus responsible for the disease, causing a usually lower fever and fewer pox marks, but still resulting in a lifelong immunity.

Plumlee said she is unsure how many local children of high school age may have contracted the disease in the past because until recently, chicken pox was not considered a "reportable disease" by the Centers for Disease Control. Now it is. That means the health department will investigate who may have been exposed and needs to receive the vaccine.

"There is a "window" (period) in which we can vaccinate," she said, "and that's five days after exposure. It's called a 'post-exposure vaccination,' and we know the people we are looking for."

She did say, however, that by this weekend, "the people who needed to come in won't be helped."

Although that may be true, those who know they have never had the disease or been vaccinated, adults especially, may want to consider getting the vaccine. Complications from chicken pox contracted later in life can be much more serious, Plumlee added.

The health department is located at 402 Hailey Road in Berryville. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. They can be reached at (870) 423-2923.

For more information, call Lydia at the elementary school at (479) 253-8704.

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