PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County is recommending that parents vaccinate their children after eight students at the same Pinellas County school were diagnosed with chickenpox.
The FDH said on Tuesday that parents at the school have been notified about the cluster of chickenpox cases. The health department did not release the name of the school, or any information that might identify the students who were diagnosed. State stature prevents the health department from releasing the information.
Chickenpox, which is called varicella, is preventable by vaccine.
It is an acute infectious disease caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV). One of its forms is herpes zoster, or shingles; in children, primary varicella infection is called chickenpox. It is spread person-to-person or through contact with the fluid in the lesions on the person’s skin.
There were 38 varicella cases in Pinellas and 743 in Florida during 2015. The Pinellas cases have risen from 16 in 2012 to 38 at the end of last year, according to the FDH in Pinellas County.
A rash is sometimes the first sign of the virus in children. Those who are unvaccinated will have crusty lesions on the head, trunk and extremities in addition to fever and other complications.
In children with cancer or HIV who already have immune-compromised systems, symptoms are more serious. Other complications may include infected lesions, pneumonia or even death. Before the varicella vaccine was in use, 1 in 60,000 varicella cases were fatal.
The varicella vaccine is administered to children as the combination MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, varicella) vaccine or as two doses.
DOH-Pinellas continues to investigate the cluster and recommends that parents fully vaccinate infants and children at their healthcare provider’s office or at a health department location.