Monday, May 25, 2015

Varicella update

Maine has had four outbreaks of varicella (three or more cases in a single setting) reported in schools or daycares during the 2014-2015 school year, more than any previous year. 
Varicella is a highly contagious, acute viral illness that causes both chickenpox and shingles.  Varicella can be serious, especially in babies, adults and those with weakened immune systems.  It spreads in the air through coughing or sneezing, or by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from the blisters. Infected people are contagious from two days before their rash starts until all blisters have scabbed over.  Vaccination is the best method of protection.
From September 2014 through mid-May 2015, 84 cases of varicella have been reported in children 18 years or younger, compared to 44 cases during the same time period of the 2013-2014 school year. Cases have been reported in all Maine counties except Washington County during the 2014-2015 school year. Of these cases, 57 (68 percent) were non- or under-immunized, including four children who were too young to receive vaccine. 
Key points for health care providers:
  • Report all cases of varicella, including clinically diagnosed cases with no laboratory testing.
  • Providers should ensure all patients are up to date with varicella vaccine and other vaccines. Two doses of varicella vaccine are recommended.
  • Pregnant women exposed to varicella should contact their obstetrician for follow up.
  • Varicella cases should be excluded from school or work until lesions are crusted over.
  • Laboratory testing is available for varicella through Maine CDC’s Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL) as well as other reference laboratories.
Key points for schools and daycares:         
Reporting requirements:
All laboratory and clinically diagnosed cases of varicella should be reported by phone to 1-800-821-5821, or by fax to 1-800-293-7534.
For more information:

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