By Bridget Kallenberger
Hill County Health Department
The Hill County Health Department has identified an increased number of chickenpox, also known as varicella, in the community. In the last month, at least 42 children have been absent from school and day cares due to the illness. Children and adults attending a wrestling meet in Sidney on March 25 and 26 were potentially exposed to chickenpox. Two attendees at the match have been diagnosed with the illness.
The Hill County Health Department is taking appointments for vaccinations and has set aside Wednesday for varicella vaccinations at its office on Fourth Avenue. Those seeking vaccination can call for an appointment or drop in.
Chickenpox is an infectious disease caused by a virus which causes a blister-like rash, itching, fatigue, and fever. The rash first appears on a person's trunk and face, and then spreads all over the body. Signs and symptoms of chickenpox include high fever, severe itching, uncomfortable rash, dehydration, and/or headache. Complications from the disease are bacterial infections of the skin, bone, lungs, joints, and blood. Another complication of chickenpox is the risk of shingles.
Chickenpox cases are most common in winter and early spring. The illness is highly contagious and is spread through person-to-person contact or through the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes. A person with chickenpox is contagious 1-2 days before a rash appears and until all blisters have formed dry, crusted scabs which can take 5-10 days to form. Children commonly miss 5-6 days of school or childcare.
Because of the recent high rate of chickenpox diagnoses, the Hill County Health Department recommends that all children over 12 months of age without evidence of immunity be vaccinated with two doses of varicella vaccine.
All adults who have never had chickenpox or been vaccinated for the illness should be vaccinated, especially those adults who live or work where potentially contagious children may be. This includes families, care givers, teachers and day care employees.
Both children and adults can be vaccinated even after being exposed to the disease.
People should contact their health care providers or the Hill County Health Department about immunization status. For questions or concerns, contact the Hill County Health Department at 265-5481, ext. 266.