NISSWA -- The number of students with chicken pox at Nisswa Elementary School has dropped since last week, school officials report.
Last week, 46 students were absent because of the illness compared with only three this week.
Mary Lastovich, Brainerd School District nurse, said other elementary schools did not report any outbreaks. She said each fall and spring there are a few cases reported at each school.
Lastovich said many of the Nisswa students who became ill suffered mild cases of chicken pox because they had received a varicella vaccine. The vaccine became available in 1995. Physicians have increasingly recommended it to their patients. Lastovich said physicians recommend the vaccine for children 12 months of age who have never had chicken pox. The vaccine is considered to be about 90 percent effective in preventing the illness as well as preventing serious complications due to chicken pox.
The Minnesota Department of Health sent a letter to parents with children at Nisswa school to recommend the vaccine. In the letter written by Claudia Miller, MDH supervisor, it said the department is investigating the outbreak and will contact all the parents of students at the school when no additional cases have occurred for at least two weeks. The health department wants to know whether the child had chicken pox previously, whether the child was vaccinated and if so when and where. Miller also asks parents to pay close attention to the chicken pox symptoms, including the number of blisters on the body.
Chicken pox is a highly contagious viral disease that is spread by direct contact or by breathing in germs from someone's cough or sneeze. Two weeks after exposure, chicken pox spots appear on the body. The contagious period for chicken pox begins two days before the skin blisters appear and lasts until all the blisters are crusted over.
Children with chicken pox have to stay home with the illness for six days before returning to school. The child can return earlier if all the blisters have dried into scabs.
For more information on chicken pox call Judy Rian at the Crow Wing County Public Health Department at 824-1080; Lastovich at 855-6597; or Miller or Shelly Feaver at the MDH at 1-877-676-5414.
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