WATERBORO — Regional School Unit 57 has notified parents of students at Massabesic Middle School that a student there has been diagnosed with chicken pox.
The letter to parents and staff was sent out after the district was notified by the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that a student had been diagnosed with chicken pox, Superintendent Larry Malone said.
“The CDC let us know of one confirmed case, and we have been following their guidelines,” Malone said Wednesday.
He said that the state agency does not consider the one diagnosis an outbreak.
Malone said notifications also will be sent to families of high school students, since some high school and middle school students travel on the same buses.
Chicken pox, or varicella, is a very contagious infection caused by a virus that usually begins with a mild fever and an itchy rash that starts as small, red bumps, the CDC said. The bumps become blistered, ooze and crust over. The virus is spread through exposure to infected fluids from the nose, throat or skin rash of someone with chicken pox, the CDC said in the notification sent to parents.
Unvaccinated children could be out of school for as much as three weeks.
“If your child has not been immunized against varicella and/or proof of immunity has not been provided to the school, your child should be excluded for a total of 21 days from the onset of the rash of a confirmed case of chicken pox, per Maine CDC,” school nurse Jen Dorr said in a letter to parents. “This is the maximum amount of time that one could develop symptoms after an exposure to chicken pox. The purpose is to break the chain of exposure to prevent spread of disease.”
She said once a family provides proof of immunity, the child can return to school.
Children can be vaccinated for chicken pox starting at age 1; infants less than 1 year old are too young to be immunized.
In Maine, parents can opt out of having their children receive required vaccinations for school or day care by signing a form indicating they have philosophic or religious objections. The state has consistently had one of the highest vaccination opt-out rates in the nation for children entering kindergarten over the past several years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Five children who attended a Westbrook daycare were diagnosed with chicken pox in May.
There were 198 cases of chicken pox in Maine in 2017, the CDC said. Of those, 20 were in York County.
Maine CDC officials did not immediately respond to questions about how many people in Maine are currently diagnosed with chicken pox.