Statement issued Friday:
INDIANAPOLIS—Due to an outbreak of varicella (chickenpox) at the Zionsville Community High School, State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, M.D. has issued an order on behalf of Boone County Health Officer Herschell Servies Jr, M.D. to exclude students who are not fully vaccinated against varicella from Zionsville Community High School on Monday, September 13. At this time, 13 cases of varicella have been reported at the school.
State law requires all students entering grades 6th through 12th must have appropriate documentation of immunity to chickenpox, including a history of disease or two varicella (chickenpox) vaccinations. Based on the school’s immunization records, a few hundred students at the high school do not have the required evidence of immunity.
“Students at Zionsville Community High School who have not received two doses of the varicella vaccine can only return to school once they can show documentation they have received the required varicella immunizations, or once we are certain the outbreak is over,” said Dr. Larkin.
Boone County Health Department will partner with the Indiana State Department of Health to host an in-school immunization clinic on Monday, September 13 to offer the varicella vaccine, as well as the other immunizations required for school. Additional information on school immunization requirements can be found on the State Health Department Website at: www.in.gov/isdh/17094.htm.
Dr. Larkin said students who cannot get vaccinated, due to medical issues or religious objections, must stay home until 21 days after the last case of chickenpox is diagnosed. Based on the incubation period for varicella, state health officials say after that date the outbreak should be over.
“This action is based on school outbreak control guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said Dr. Larkin. “Students who have not had chickenpox and are not fully immunized are vulnerable to catching and spreading chickenpox and must be excluded to protect them and others.”
“Although we certainly want Indiana students to be up-to-date on all required vaccinations, the exclusion of these students is not being done as a result of non-compliance with the school immunization requirements. This is an unfortunate reminder of why these vaccines are required.”
Chickenpox is a very contagious disease that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Although it is commonly associated with children, anyone who has not had chickenpox can become infected. Chickenpox is usually considered a mild childhood rash illness, but it can cause serious complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis, bacterial infections, and even death.
Chickenpox is easily spread from person to person by droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Direct contact with the rash of an infected person during the contagious period can also spread the disease. Having contact with personal articles, such as clothing or bedding, from a person recently infected with chickenpox may also spread the disease.
A person with chickenpox is considered contagious from 2 days before the rash appears until the rash has scabbed over.