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HEALTH Reports Varicella Activity in Four Rhode Island Communities

Since March 1, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has received reports of six single, sporadic cases of varicella (chickenpox): three in Warwick, one in Cranston, one in North Providence, and one in Woonsocket. Families of potentially-exposed children who attend Totally Kids Child Care, Oakland Beach Elementary School, and Drum Rock Elementary School in Warwick, as well as Garden City Elementary School in Cranston, McGuire Elementary School in North Providence, and YWCA Northern RI in Woonsocket were notified about potential risks. HEALTH is working with the schools and day care centers to ensure that children and staff identified as close contacts receive age-appropriate vaccinations, as needed.

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease. The virus spreads easily through the air by sneezing and coughing, or contact with fluid from blisters. Early symptoms may include aching, fever, and sore throat, followed by the appearance of a very itchy skin rash with blisters forming. Any child with these symptoms should stay home from school, day care, or other activities and see a doctor right away.

Chickenpox reports are common this time of year, especially among younger children who have not reached full immunity by completing the series of two vaccinations or by having chickenpox. HEALTH advises all parents to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for ensuring their children are up-to-date on chickenpox vaccinations.

Parents of young children should arrange for their children to see a doctor to get up-to-date on shots. One dose of chickenpox vaccine is recommended for children at 12 to 15 months of age, and a booster dose is recommended for children before they enter kindergarten. If a child has symptoms of chickenpox, parents should call their child's doctor as soon as possible and follow the doctor's instructions.

"Vaccination is the best prevention against chickenpox," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "We are continuing to work with healthcare providers and schools to prevent the further spread of chickenpox in Rhode Island."

HEALTH works with school officials on an ongoing basis to assess student vaccination coverage rates and identify cases of chickenpox.

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