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Sedalia 200 sees an increase in chickenpox cases


Sedalia School District 200 notified families on Monday, Jan. 29 that there is an increase in chickenpox cases in several schools.

Sedalia School District Nurse Health Coordinator Dana Curry and Assistant Superintendent Jason Curry spoke to the Democrat on Tuesday morning, Jan. 30 concerning the cases. They noted it's essential to recognize chickenpox symptoms and know how long to stay home from school if one is sick.

Jason Curry noted staff and families need to look for these chickenpox symptoms: fever, rash or blister-like lesions, fatigue, loss of appetite, headache, and sore throat.

"The rash and blisters are the tell-tell sign," he added. "It starts with other symptoms that usually might preclude that.

"The tricky thing about chickenpox is the incubation period," he continued. "It lasts from 10 to 21 days. Typically, when we have students who are diagnosed with chickenpox, their health care provider will inform them that the most contagious period is when the rash is noticeable. And not scabbed over or dried over."

He added they generally advise students not to return to school until the rash is scabbed over and there is no active rash. Jason Curry noted they are glad parents have kept students home when needed and happy the district doesn't have an outbreak scenario yet.

Dana Curry added they've had many phone calls from parents asking which building the cases are in.

"Basically, at some point, we've had a case in every building," she noted.

The district reports case numbers and locations to Pettis County Health Center Communicable Disease Nurse Brooklyn Shaffer, who noted there were 11 active cases in January and 10 cases each in November and December in Sedalia schools.

"So, over the course of three months, we've had about 30 cases," she noted. "Maybe more because sometimes offices don't report to us.

"Basically, when I talk to the school nurse coordinator, I'm gathering information," she continued. "Are they in the same classroom? The cases that come across, I'm asking, what school are they going to? Because if we get two or more cases in the same classroom, then we consider that an outbreak."

She added that so far, the schools haven’t reached the level of an outbreak since many of the cases she received have been from different schools or classrooms.

"So, we've been barely missing (an) outbreak, but I feel like we're going to have one here pretty soon," Shaffer said. "Another question I'm asking is, are these students immunized? Because that does play a factor.

"Also, if they are immunized, we do a little bit more digging," she continued. "So, there's just a little bit more information on my part."

Shaffer also reminds the district how long students should be out of school and she reaches out to parents to remind them how long they need to keep their children home. Shaffer explains to families if there are siblings, especially if they are not immunized, they should be kept separated from the sick child.

"A lot of the schools are really good … especially Dana Curry, our nurse at the schools," Shaffer said. "She's really good and knowledgeable. So, I really don't have to talk to her about things much."

So far, the increase in cases is only being seen in the Sedalia School District, with cases at Smith-Cotton High School, Smith-Cotton Junior High, Horace Mann Elementary, and Washington Elementary.

"I don't really see many cases in our county schools, like Green Ridge and Smithton," Shaffer noted. "But I'm seeing a lot of cases in Sedalia."

Shaffer explained that some students are not immunized for religious reasons or health reasons. She added there isn't any chickenpox prevention except a vaccination.

"That's the biggest thing," she noted. "Because we do have kids that cannot get immunized, whether they're on (an) immunosuppressant or they're on chemotherapy.

"So, we really strongly encourage the children that can get immunized, do get immunized," she continued. "Because you do have your kids who are severely immunocompromised and can't, and it will affect them. They can be hospitalized for it, so that's one thing we want to let people know — immunizations are so important."

She also added pregnant women should not be exposed to a person with chickenpox.

"And that's another question that I do ask Dana," Shaffer said. "Are your teachers in the classroom, are any of them pregnant? Because they need to be made aware of that as well."

Faith Bemiss-McKinney can be reached at 660-530-0289.

sedalia school district 200, pettis county health center, chicken pox, immunizations