South Carolina health officials are urging parents and providers to keep children up to date on vaccinations after reporting the first two varicella (chicken pox) outbreaks in the state since 2020.
Two varicella outbreaks were reported in early March 2022: The first was reported on March 4 in the Lowcountry Region in a childcare setting. The second one was reported in the Upstate Region on March 10 in an elementary school.
“These two varicella outbreaks as well as a decline in childhood vaccination coverage highlight the need for a renewed focus on maintaining recommended childhood vaccinations,” said Dr. Linda Bell, State Epidemiologist. “We encourage parents to consult their children’s medical provider to ensure their child’s vaccination record is current.”
Varicella is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus; it appears most commonly as a skin rash of blister-like lesions, usually on the face, scalp, or trunk.
Although infection is usually mild in healthy children, adults and people with a weakened immune system may have more severe disease. Complications include bacterial infections of skin lesions, pneumonia and complications of the neurologic and other organ systems, among other things.
Prior to the availability of the varicella vaccine, 10,500 to 13,000 persons with varicella required hospitalization each year in the United States. Death from varicella is uncommon; however, some deaths continue to occur even in healthy children and adults who are unvaccinated.