Chesterton Tribune



Discovery Charter School faces chickenpox outbreak

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The Porter County Health Department, in accordance with the standards of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Indiana Department of Health, has declared an outbreak of chickenpox at the Dunes Discovery Charter School, 800 Canonie Drive, in Porter.

Discovery Director Ernesto Martinez and School Nurse Kristen Byrt told the Chesterton Tribune this morning that since Tuesday the school has had five confirmed cases of the disease and two suspected cases in various grades.

County Health Department Administrator Keith Letta said that according to the state department of health, an outbreak situation is declared once five or more persons in a single unit or school contract the disease.

Once that happens, all students who have not received vaccinations are sent home and may not be readmitted until they have received their vaccines, Letta said.

State regulations require that students in Indiana receive two doses of the vaicella (chickenpox) vaccine prior to entering school or provide a documented history of having the disease, Letta said. However, parents can file a waiver with the school due to medical reasons or religious objections. Those students will be excluded from school 21 days after the last case of chickenpox is diagnosed according to state code, Letta said.

Martinez said about 40 students were excluded from school earlier this week but the majority have returned, having received the vaccinations. As of this morning, Martinez said 15 students are still excluded from school because of religious objection to the vaccine while two are excluded due to medical reasons. Those students will have their lessons sent home to them.

Byrt said those students will be able to return to school on Oct. 16 instead of Oct. 14 as previously stated. Notices will go out to parents this afternoon, she said.

Martinez said he had earlier this week sent a letter home with students explaining the measures the school would be following as ordered by the CDC and the Porter County Health Department.

On Thursday morning the County Health Department set up a clinic at the school and vaccinated a total of 16 students. Others were vaccinated by their family physicians. Those students were allowed to return to class, said Connie Rudd, director of nursing for the County Health Department.

Rudd said once a student receives the vaccine, his or her body immediately begins to produce antibodies to build up immunity so if the student should contract the disease, the symptoms will most likely be mild.

Martinez added that he would like to express his gratitude to Byrt on behalf of his staff and board of directors for her professional and helpful effort in handling the outbreak situation.



Posted 9/27/2013