Birmingham Schools Warn Parents Of Outbreak Of Chickenpox, Recommend Non-Immunized Stay Home

BIRMINGHAM (CBS DETROIT) – There were only a few cases but it was enough to get the attention of administrators within the Birmingham Public Schools district.

On Thursday a letter was sent home to parents informing them of a minor outbreak of chickenpox in some of the Birmingham schools.

Community Relations Director Marcia Wilkinson said three cases were reported Tuesday: one at Seaholm High School, one at Derby Middle School and one at Pierce Elementary School. While the district is receiving advice and assistance from the Oakland County Health Division, Wilkinson said for privacy purposes the district cannot release the vaccination status of the three students.

“We require waivers if a child is not immunized,” she said.

Since 1978, Michigan law has required children to be up to date with required immunizations on or before the first day of school or day care. A waiver is permitted, however, if a valid medical condition exists preventing the student from being immunized.

Parents or caregivers can also seek a waiver “based on religious or philosophical beliefs which prevent a vaccine,” according to the Oakland County Health Division.

In the letter the district urged parents to watch their children for any symptoms of chickenpox, a highly contagious disease that can occur 10-28 days after exposure to a person with the virus. Early on, the virus can appear as a cold.

Based on that time line, the district strongly recommends an exclusion period for non-immunized students until April 14. Students currently non-immunized who receive the vaccination by March 29 will be allowed to return to school prior to April 14.

“We’re only recommending, not requiring, that the child stay home from school,” Wilkinson said Thursday. “As with any long-term absence, it is important that the parent work closely with the teachers to make sure the student stays on track with his or her work.”

Plus, the district will be on spring break April 3-10.

The illness generally starts with a slight fever, followed by a blister-like, itchy rash. If a student does develop chickenpox, the district recommends taking them to a physician for evaluation and treatment and then keeping them home until the rash subsides – which usually takes five days.

Wilkinson said it’s unusual for any of the schools in the district to report a chickenpox case, but she did note there was a fourth case that was diagnosed earlier in the school year.

Most people recover from chickenpox without any problems. Some people who are vaccinated against chickenpox may still get the disease, but it is usually milder with fewer blisters and little or no fever.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4 million people would get chickenpox each year in the United States before the vaccine – and 100-150 died each year as a result of the virus.

Oakland County provides a toll free number at 800-848-5533 for anyone seeking more information about the virus.

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