Chicken pox outbreak at Blue Ridge Elementary

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August 30, 2006

The chicken pox is back.

Even with the required vaccine, that pesky bug has 14 Columbia County elementary school students out sick.

Some medical professionals warn the vaccine for chicken pox might not be strong enough.

Doctors say with new vaccines, it takes time to find out how long your immunity will last.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, recently announced that if you don't get a second dose, there's a good chance you'll be home with a case of the chicken pox.

Kids these days don't have to worry about the chicken pox...or so we thought.

Two of Sheila Golston's three children have been through it.

"She just scratched all over, just kept scratching," Sheila recalled. "That's the worst really, just trying to keep them from scratching."

Sheila's kids and the 14 Blue Ridge Elementary School students who are currently out with the pox had the vaccine, which should prevent them from catching it.

Principal Joyce Long saw cases starting to pop up a year ago. It caught teachers off guard.

"When I looked at it, I said, 'I haven't seen this in years, but it looks like chicken pox,' and she never saw them, she was young enough to get a vaccine," Principal Long said.

Now that it seems to be spreading, the Health Department sent notices home to all the Blue Ridge parents.

The ACIP says the one dose schools started to require in 2000 isn't going to cut it. Now, they recommend a second dose at least 30 days later.

School nurse Belinda Watson says people who actually had the virus stand a better chance of avoiding a second round.

"You have the immunity in your system already," she explained. "They're having to put the immunity into your system."

The one vaccine might not be strong enough to make that immunity last.

"It was kind of a blast from the past, 'cause I thought they were things we don't have to worry about, but evidently we might have to worry about again," Principal Long said.

For students and parents like Sheila, it's time to head back to the doctor for round two...because the bug is back.

The chicken pox can spread through the air, and people who are infected can be contagious up to five days before their physical symptoms appear.

Parents should be also careful what type of medicine they give their kids. If the kids have a fever, parents should not give them aspirin. That can lead to Reye's Syndrome, which can be fatal within a few days.