While three cases of varicella, or chickenpox, have been reported in Warwick since March 1, neither state health nor school authorities are expressing alarm. No additional cases were reported as of yesterday.
Last week, the Rhode Island Department of Health [HEALTH] reported cases of chickenpox at the Totally Kids Child Care, Oakland Beach School and the Drum Rock Early Childhood Center in Warwick. Additional cases were reported at Garden City Elementary School in Cranston, McGuire Elementary School in North Providence, and YWCA Northern Rhode Island in Woonsocket.
Warwick school authorities said parents at each of the schools were notified and HEALTH reported it is working with the schools and day care centers to ensure that children and staff identified as close contacts receive age-appropriate vaccinations, as needed.
According to HEALTH reports, Rhode Island experienced a total of 42 cases of chickenpox last year, with 10 of those occurring in Kent County.
Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease. The virus spreads easily through the air by sneezing and coughing, or contact with fluid from blisters. Early symptoms may include aching, fever, and sore throat, followed by the appearance of a very itchy skin rash with blisters forming. Any child with these symptoms should stay home from school, day care, or other activities and see a doctor right away.
According to the Immunization Action Coalition, the vaccine is 70 to 100 percent effective to those who have been exposed to chickenpox if it is given within 72 hours of exposure.
Also, the coalition reports that 97 percent of children between 12 months and 12 years develop immunity to the disease after one dose of vaccine. For older children and adults, an average of 78 percent develop immunity after one dose and 99 percent develop immunity after the recommended two doses.
The vaccination is one of those series of immunizations the Warwick School Department requires for a student to register for school.
“The rule is that all children coming to school need immunization,” Richard D’Agostino, director of special services said yesterday. He said there are a few waivers for religious beliefs and for medical reasons, such as allergies, but system wide there were less than 20.
He said letters were sent to parents of both Warwick schools and that, as of yesterday, there were no additional “probable” cases (He said the cases identified last week were designated as “probable” until tests confirm chickenpox).
According to HEALTH, parents of young children should arrange for their kids to see a doctor to get up-to-date on shots. One dose of vaccine is recommended for children at 12 to 15 months of age, and a booster dose is recommended for children before they enter kindergarten. If a child has symptoms of chickenpox, parents should call their child’s doctor as soon as possible and follow the doctor’s instructions.
"Vaccination is the best prevention against chickenpox," Director of Health Michael Fine, MD said in a statement. "We are continuing to work with healthcare providers and schools to prevent the further spread of chickenpox in Rhode Island.”