A student on campus was diagnosed with chickenpox (varicella) on February 10, 2014 and may have exposed some students on February 6-7.
Students who were in the Writting Center on those days have potentially been exposed.
Varicella is a highly contagious disease spread by respiratory droplets. It is particularly dangerous for those persons with weakened immune systems from disease of medication. Pregnant women are also considered at risk.
We are advising that students who have never had Varicella or who are unsure of their Varicella history to have the 2-series vaccine. This requires a vaccine now and a vaccine in 1 month. For those who are unsure if they have had chickenpox, a Varicella titer can be done at the time of the first immunization. If the titer comes back positive then another vaccine is not necessary.
Persons with weakened immune systems are not eligible to have the vaccine. They should contact their health care provider as soon as possible if they were exposed.
The exposed students may call the WWU Student Health Center at (360) 650-3400 (choose option 4) to discuss their risk of infection with the consulting nurse. For the best protection, if you have NEVER HAD chickenpox AND WERE EXPOSED it would be best for you to get the Varicella vaccine. The vaccine is most protective if given within 72 hours of exposure. However it can still be protective up to 5-6 days after exposure. Therefore if you were exposed, the sooner you receive this vaccine, the better. We are also encouraging "non-exposed" students, faculty, and staff who have never had chickenpox to also have the Varicella vaccine at this time.
FAQs for Chickenpox:
What is the medical name for chickenpox?
The medical name for chickenpox is Varicella.
What causes Varicella?
Varicella is caused by a virus that is spread by direct contact and through respiratory droplets.
How contagious is Varicella?
Varicella is very contagious. One can get Varicella by being in the same room as an infected person.
What are the symptoms of Varicella?
Varicella causes a rash characterized by fluid filled, blister-like “vesicles” that are very itchy and usually spread from the chest, abdomen, and face to the limbs. There may be a mild fever and fatigue 1-2 days prior to the onset of the rash. The vesicles usually last from 3 to 7 days, and then they dry up and scab over.
How long is a person with Varicella contagious?
Persons with Varicella are contagious from 5 days prior to the rash until all of the blisters are scabbed over.
Can Varicella be serious?
Varicella can be serious especially in persons with weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women, persons with HIV infection, persons receiving cancer chemotherapy or other immunosuppressive medications for arthritis, asthma, allergies, or organ transplant. Persons with a weakened immune system should contact their doctor as soon as possible if they are exposed.
Are there complications from getting Varicella?
Yes, complications of Varicella include serious bacterial infection of the blisters, brain swelling (encephalitis), and pneumonia. 1 out of every 60,000 cases of Varicella will end in death. Children with Varicella should not take aspirin as there is a chance of developing Reye’s syndrome. A latent form of Varicella called Herpes Zoster or “Shingles” can occur later in life long after a person had primary Varicella.
Is there a way to prevent getting Varicella?
There is a vaccine for Varicella. The vaccine, given within 72 hours of exposure to Varicella, may prevent getting the disease. The vaccine is 2 doses 1 month apart for persons more than 12 years old. Only 1 dose is needed for children less than or equal to 12 years old. The vaccine cannot be given to persons with weakened immune systems as it is a live attenuated vaccine.
What if I had Varicella as a child, but never got the vaccine?
Having Varicella as a child usually protects you for life. There have been cases of people getting Varicella more than once, but this is unusual. If you are unsure if you have had Varicella you can get a blood test called a Varicella titer. It is available at the Student Health Center.
What if I am not sure if I have had Varicella?
If you are unsure about your Varicella status then you should have a Varicella titer done. This is a blood test.
Is it true that Varicella is more serious in adults than in children?
Yes, adults usually have a more prolonged and serious case of Varicella than do children.
If I was exposed, how long before I might come down with Varicella?
The incubation period (time from exposure to onset of disease) is 14 to 16 days with a range of 10 to 21 days.
If I was exposed to Varicella, can I still get the vaccine?
Yes, the vaccine is thought to provide some protection from getting the disease if given within 72 hours of exposure. It may be of some benefit up to 5 days after exposure.
If it has been longer than 5 days since I was exposed to Varicella should I still get the vaccine if I have never had Varicella?
The benefit of receiving the vaccine at this time would provide protection from future exposures. If it were greater than 5 days and you were uncertain of your immune status against Varicella, it would be better to get the blood test for Varicella titer since many adults have had a mild case of Varicella that they never knew they had. A positive titer would indicate protection against Varicella.
What do I do if I get Varicella?
Since Varicella is highly contagious, it is best to stay home when you have Varicella. You should contact your doctor for advice regarding the antiviral medication. If you develop confusion, vomiting, persistent fever beyond 3 days, cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, or extreme skin pain you should also contact your doctor.
If I get Varicella how long does it last?
The illness usually lasts 7-10 days.
Is there a medication to treat Varicella?
Yes in certain situations an antiviral medication is given to shorten the course of Varicella.
How much does it cost to have the vaccine?
The vaccine costs $100.00 per dose at the Student Health Center for anyone 19 years old or older. If you are 18 years old or younger you can get the vaccine for $20.00 per dose.
Who should get the blood test for Varicella titer?
Persons who are unsure of their history of Varicella should get the Varicella titer. It is not recommended for children less than 13 years old. The 1 dose vaccine is recommended in this age group.
How much does the blood test Varicella titer cost?
The lab cost is $36.51.
Will my insurance pay for the vaccine and titer?
Some insurance companies might pay for the vaccine and/ or titer, however insurance policies vary widely therefore it is important to check with your individual insurance carrier.