September 27, 2018 | Ottawa County
On Tuesday, September 25, 2018, the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) was notified of confirmed chickenpox cases in students attending Jenison Public Schools at Kids First (ECC/El Puente). Parents of students in this building were notified of the chickenpox cases in the school, where the OCDPH noted:
• If your child has not been immunized and you cannot provide a verification of a previous diagnosis of chickenpox by a health care provider, your child will be excluded from school for 21 days after onset of the last confirmed case.
• If you have been told previously that your child should not receive the vaccine because of a medical condition, please contact your child’s medical provider in the event of chickenpox exposure.
• If you suspect that your child has chickenpox you are encouraged to contact your medical care provider. All individuals diagnosed with chickenpox should be kept home until the rash has crusted over (usually about five days).
Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The virus spreads easily from infected people to others who have never had the disease or been vaccinated. Chickenpox is spread mainly by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from chickenpox blisters, and possibly through tiny droplets from infected people that get into the air after they breathe or talk.
Parents who elect to waive vaccination for their children meet with a public health nurse and receive education which includes actions that may involve exclusion from school. The OCDPH respects the rights of parents to make vaccination decisions on behalf of their children, but the OCDPH also carries the responsibility of taking actions that provide a balance so the rights of one do not adversely impact the rights and health of others. The importance of protecting the health of the community is what guides the health department’s actions.
“We understand how trying this can be for families. During a conversation with one of the parents impacted by this, we talked about the vaccination waiver they signed and how it included a warning that 21 or more days of school could be missed if a case of a vaccine preventable disease was suspected in their child’s school,” said Health Officer Lisa Stefanovsky. “They remembered that conversation, but admitted they didn’t think it would really happen and hadn’t comprehended how long that would really be.”
The OCDPH carefully considers the concerns of all county residents and other affected community members whenever exercising their local public health authority. Health officials thoroughly review the most current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services guidelines available.
The OCDPH has issued the least restrictive disease control measures that will still provide reasonable public health protection to reduce further transmission and the chances of a community outbreak. It remains in the best interest of public health to exclude unvaccinated children since those who have been excluded from school cannot be determined to be contagious until they do, or do not exhibit symptoms. This requires a waiting period of up to 21 days.
The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine. Children, adolescents and adults should get two doses of chickenpox vaccine. The chickenpox vaccine is very effective at preventing the disease. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/chickenpox or contact your doctor.