The Rusk County Public Health Department continues to investigate a chickenpox outbreak among Ladysmith Elementary School students.

There have been 11 confirmed cases and one probable case, according to Public Health Officer Dawn Brost.

“The cases were confirmed on the basis of clinical compatibility and epidemiologic linkage to another confirmed or probable case,” she said.

Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution, patterns and determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations.

The department announced five confirmed chicken pox cases at the school on Dec. 10.

Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It can cause an itchy, blister-like rash. The rash first appears on the chest, back, and face, and then spreads over the entire body, causing between 250 and 500 itchy blisters. Other symptoms include fatigue, fever, irritability and headache. Chickenpox can be serious, especially in babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and people with a weakened immune system. Please contact your health care provider or Rusk County Public Health for additional guidance if you consider yourself to be in one of the categories listed above.

Most of the cases at the school were breakthrough chickenpox, according to Brost.

Breakthrough chickenpox occurs occasionally, in people who have been partially and/or fully vaccinated for the disease with an onset date of greater than 42 days after vaccination. The symptoms are usually milder, with fewer or no blisters (or just red spots), mild or no fever, and shorter duration of illness. These individuals are still contagious and can spread the disease.

Individuals who are susceptible, such as unvaccinated and without history of disease, should be excluded from days 10-21 after exposure. If they receive their first dose post exposure, they may return to school and activities immediately. Individuals with only one dose of vaccine should be excluded from days 10-21 after exposure. If they receive their second dose post exposure, they may return to school and activities immediately.

Rusk County Public Health will have vaccine available at no charge for any individual regardless of insurance status. Call the health department at 715-532-2209 or your personal provider with additional questions.      

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