It’s common for the average American children to suffer illnesses throughout the year — in fact, it’s normal for a child to experience anywhere between six and 10 colds each year. But for 30 young students in Alabama, things got a little bit more complicated after a possible chickenpox outbreak affected Hayden Primary School.
According to local news reports from WVTM 13 and AL.com, a rash closely resembling chickenpox began to affect students in kindergarten, first, and second grades starting at the beginning of May.
No severe complications have been reported from the rash, but WIAT.com has noted that the school experienced “a spike [during the first week of May] of kids with rashes,” and school principal Kim Harbison urged parents to monitor children closely.
The Alabama Department of Public Health began investigating the situation after several children in Hayden Primary School developed rashes similar to chickenpox.
As of May 14, the latest updates from AL.com states that only some of the children with the rash have been diagnosed with chickenpox; it seems possible that other children simply developed a rash, unrelated to the illness, as a result of warmer weather and spring pollen levels.
Nevertheless, workers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have collected samples from each of the patients and have sent the specimens out for testing. If the tests come back positive for the varicella zoster virus, which causes chickenpox, the school may increase health and safety measures to ensure that the virus doesn’t continue spreading.
According to Dr. Karen Landers, a medical consultant with the Immunization Division of the Alabama Department of Public Health, the majority of the children affected by the rash have received the chickenpox vaccine.
The vaccine is about 85% effective as a single dose and 98% effective when given in two doses; however, it’s still possible for someone to contract the illness even after vaccination. If a vaccinated person contracts the virus, they generally experience milder symptoms, are less contagious, and are less likely to develop severe complications such as high fever, pneumonia, and skin infections.
Health officials are reminding parents to keep a close eye on their children if a rash appears, and to seek medical treatment immediately if chickenpox is suspected.