UPDATE: 4 chickenpox cases at 1 local school

11:11 AM: New information today about cases of chickenpox reported at Arbor Heights Elementary School. Letters sent to families at AHES and at co-housed Louisa Boren K-8 STEM said five cases had been verified at AHES, but today Seattle Public Schools tells WSB the number is actually four.

The letter sent to families said that the cases appear to have stemmed from exposure “around February 11th” and notes that, “Chickenpox is usually not a serious illness, but it can be severe when complicated by bacterial skin infections and is especially acute for children and adults with compromised immune systems (for example, from cancer chemotherapy, high-dose steroid therapy for asthma or HIV). Adolescents, adults, the elderly, and pregnant women are more at risk for complications from chicken pox.” The district says the four cases include one vaccinated child and three unvaccinated children; 90 percent of AHES students are vaccinated, according to the letter from principal Christy Collins.

The letter advises:

Children 12 months of age and older, adolescents, and adults who have not had chicken pox disease and have not received chicken pox vaccine should contact their health care provider to get immunized as soon as possible. Those with compromised immune systems should talk to their healthcare provider to discuss the best ways to protect themselves from chicken pox.

The King County Public Health website shares this general information about the disease. We asked KCPH spokesperson James Apa for any information available about current trends; he says that individual cases are “not reportable” so they don’t have trend information. He does say the last chickenpox-related death in the county was in 2011.

ADDED 2:42 PM: More from Apa at KCPH: Four cases is considered a “cluster”; while he cautions that his agency might not always hear about clusters, they have heard about one other so far this year – a preschool – and also, three other reports of 1 or 2 cases of chickenpox in schools or daycares around King County.

23 Replies to "UPDATE: 4 chickenpox cases at 1 local school"

  • newnative February 25, 2016 (11:27 am)

    That’s a lot of unvaccinated kids.  

  • Lauren February 25, 2016 (11:46 am)

    You can get some benefit from the chicken pox vaccine even if you’ve already been exposed, as long as there’s no sign of the virus yet. This per our pediatrician last year. My son wasn’t yet vaccinated and he was unexpectedly exposed. We had to call all around to find the vaccine, and ended up driving to the Bartell’s on lower Queen Anne which has a travel vaccine clinic – they had it in stock. 

  • trickycoolj February 25, 2016 (12:46 pm)

    Ugh.  I hate it when I see Chickenpox in the community.  I had it so mild I never got immunity to it.  Thankfully the doctors at UW were willing to test my immunity so I could be vaccinated.  As a woman of childbearing age it is very serious if you do not have immunity to chickenpox and the little darlings in our community think it’s no big deal.  There are actually adults out there that haven’t or only mildy got the chickenpox in childhood and grew up in an era before there was a vaccine for it.  Complications in adults are serious, and it can also cause serious birth defects.  A 5-day virus is going around my office at lightning speed right now because people won’t stay home.  Please stay home when you are ill.

    • HelperMonkey February 25, 2016 (1:11 pm)

      When I was a nanny ( 20+ years ago) it was common practice to have “chickenpox parties” -when one kid in the neighborhood caught it all the other kids were brought over for a playdate so they’d catch it and get it out of the way.  I had it so bad when I was 10 I wish I could have been vaccinated! I not-so- fondly recall being slathered head to toe in Calamine lotion and wearing oven mitts for the itching. Ha. 

  • Bonnie February 25, 2016 (1:27 pm)

    I once knew somebody whose kids were not vaccinated and wanted to have a ‘Chicken Pox Party’.  Seriously.  

    • sam-c February 25, 2016 (3:11 pm)

      That doesn’t seem that weird to me, as my mom drove me 5 hours  so i would get chicken pox from my cousin.  But that was 35 years ago.  I thought it was fun.

      • Bsmomma February 25, 2016 (4:57 pm)

        Same here!  We had all the cousins and neighbor kids over for a sleepover.  Badabing!  We all got it. Done.

        • Bonnie February 25, 2016 (5:20 pm)

          Well I think in this day and age when there is a chicken pox vaccine available…it’s weird.  

  • waikikigirl February 25, 2016 (1:33 pm)

     Now they say if you had Chickenpox when you were a child you are more than likely to get Shingles in your later adult years….YIPPEE!!! those are NO FUN believe me I know, my hubby knows… :>(

    • newnative February 25, 2016 (2:44 pm)

      That has always been true.  it’s the same virus, herpes zoster.

  • Gawdger February 25, 2016 (1:49 pm)

    I’m an adult who was never vaccinated and have children, who are vaccinated, at AH.  Does anyone know if the vaccinated child can carry/transmit chicken pox?

    • Bonnie February 25, 2016 (5:22 pm)

      I do not know but I was exposed to the chicken pox as a child but never got it.  Then as an adult I was tested to see if I was immune and the test came back inconclusive.  I ended up getting the chicken pox vaccine.

  • Rick Sanchez February 25, 2016 (1:59 pm)

    Thanks, Jenny McCarthy.  

  • Anne February 25, 2016 (2:12 pm)

    FYI – there is a Shingles vaccine available. Have seen family & friends suffer with Shingles- very painful. 

  • AA February 25, 2016 (2:53 pm)

     Anne – You can only get the shingles vaccine if you are 65 or older. I’ve asked my doctor repeatedly. Am 42, have had both the chickenpox as an adult and shingles twice in my 30’s. I wish they would lower the shingles vaccine age.

  • newnative February 25, 2016 (3:04 pm)

    From the CDC website it explains that Shingles vaccine has been approved for 60 and older.  It doesn’t explain why the minimum age other than comments about it being effective for 5 years.  

  • JTB February 25, 2016 (3:11 pm)

    Gawdger, The Merck Manual Professional Edition says that indirect transmission by immune carriers does not occur. 

  • 4thGenWestSide February 25, 2016 (5:41 pm)

    The vaccine age information is incorrect.  My wife and I both have had the vaccination and we are in our mid 40’s.  It all depends on if your insurance will cover it.  If not, you can still get it (pending doctor approval) but it will cost you around $200-$300.  
    Either way, small price to pay to stack the odds in your favor.  

  • EmmyJane February 25, 2016 (6:05 pm)

    Super sarcastic thank you to all you selfish parents who haven’t vaccinated your children. My 9 month old is too young to get the chickenpox vaccination and YOU will be responsible if he gets sick. I don’t know why they let unvaccinated children into public school. 

  • New thinking needed February 25, 2016 (6:32 pm)

    Chicken pox is spread by the breath. I had chicken pox at age 36 because there was no vaccine during my childhood. I believe I caught the virus on an airplane from a toddler who was feverish and in my breathing vicinity.  I couldn’t think of any other place I may have  been exposed. I would urge all parents to utilize the option of vaccination because it is a terribly miserable virus to have.  

  • JanS February 25, 2016 (6:48 pm)

    yes, beware, especially if an infant is involved. Chicken pox can actually be very serious for an infant, even to including death.  I was exposed as a child (almost 69 now), and I have had shingles on my face. It’s extremely painful, it takes forever to go away. I had it on the middle trigeminal nerve, from nose, across cheek, right below my eye. If it happens along the nerve above, that affect they eye, it can cause blindness. I have since been vaccinated. And hope I never, ever get it again.

  • squareeyes February 26, 2016 (7:43 am)

    My 54 year old husband had a very mild case of shingles last year.  When he was recovered his doctor gave him the shingles vaccine saying that it should help fight off any future outbreaks. Even though the general rule is vaccinate at 60, they will make exceptions.

  • Chris February 26, 2016 (10:22 am)

    My now twenty one year old daughter got chicken pox when she was six months old, the year before the varicella vaccine was available.  It was horrible to deal with a baby that small and that miserable.  While she was in college I worried that the stress would bring her shingles (babies who get chicken pox are at a higher risk for shingles in their twenties).

    It wasn’t too great for her older brother who was in kindergarten.  The sad irony was that the easiest child to potty train was so sick he was wetting the bed each night.  It truly affected the school he was going through, including one other student who got a secondary bacterial infection and was close to getting a limb amputated.

Sorry, comment time is over.