Chickenpox Outbreak Could Force Kids To Stay Home

SPOKANE — A chickenpox outbreak at Garfield Elementary School may cause a number of children to be kept out of school Thursday.

A press release from the Spokane Regional Health District issued Wednesday said “several dozen Garfield Elementary School students may be kept out of school until an outbreak of chickenpox has ended, or until their parents can provide proof of vaccination or immunity.”

SRHD stressed that chickenpox can be a serious affliction and the current outbreak is widespread enough to warrant taking preventative action in attempt to keep infected parties to a minimum.

“Although many people believe that chickenpox is a mild, expected disease of childhood, chickenpox can be very serious,” SRHD epidemiologist Bill Edstrom said. “For this reason, Washington State began a phased-in requirement for all school children to be vaccinated against this disease beginning in 2005.”

The release stated the decision to keep at risk students out of the school was “based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and made in consultation with the Washington State Department of Health and Spokane Public School officials.”

The joint decision means all children and staff in affected classrooms who cannot prove vaccination or having previously contracted the disease are being sent home for up to 21 days, depending on how long the outbreak persists.

“It is not possible to predict who will have a mild case of chickenpox and who will have a serious or even deadly case of [the] disease,” the SRHD said. They also stressed that, “compared with children, adults are at increased risk of complications related to chickenpox.”

While the school and health district are taking action to protect students, faculty and staff by sending vulnerable people home, local health officials maintain that vaccinations are a safe and effective preventative measure that “should be used to prevent as many cases as possible,” according to the SRHD release.

More information about vaccinations is available on the CDC’s website