New chickenpox outbreak hits San Diego school

Posted at 4:52 PM, May 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-06 19:52:17-04

Five students at Kate Sessions Elementary School in Pacific Beach have been diagnosed with chickenpox, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

The cases that were reported Friday are unrelated to the two previous outbreaks reported last week.

In the most recent outbreak, the first student reported the illness on March 29, with the latest student to be diagnosed reportedly becoming ill on May 4.

Symptoms of chickenpox can take 14 to 16 days after exposure before they appear, with a range of 10 to 21 days. Additional cases at Sessions Elementary may be reported through May 25, according to HHSA.

The children diagnosed range in age from 5 to 10 years old.  None of the children were immunized and three of them are siblings, HHSA reported. The school has notified students and staff about the outbreak.

"The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get both doses of the varicella vaccine," said County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., in a prepared statement.

"The vaccine is very safe and effective," she said. "Not only does it protect the person who is being vaccinated, making sure your family is immunized helps protect your loved ones, those who are unable to get the shot due to underlying medical conditions and others in the community."

There have been 31 cases of chickenpox reported in San Diego County this year. Chickenpox is not reportable to the County Public Health Department unless it occurs in an outbreak or results in a hospitalization or death, according to HHSA.

Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella virus. The disease is easily spread by coughing, sneezing or being in contact with chickenpox blisters.

Symptoms of chickenpox include a skin rash of blister-like lesions covering the body but usually more concentrated on the face, scalp, and trunk. The risk of complications increases after puberty and includes bacterial infection of skin lesions, dehydration and pneumonia, according to health experts.

Most, but not all, infected patients get a fever, which develops just before or when the rash appears.

If exposed, persons who have been vaccinated against the disease may get a milder illness, with less severe rash and mild or no fever. The illness lasts about 5 to 10 days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two doses of chickenpox vaccine.

Children should be vaccinated between 12 and 15 months of age and receive the second dose between 4 and 6 years of age.

For more information on chickenpox and immunizations, contact the HHSA Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966 or visit the website at