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Ashland chickenpox threat wanes

Nearly three weeks removed from its most recent documented case of chickenpox, the Ashland School District appears to have finally vanquished the threat that exploded into a full-fledged outbreak in early December.

The Jackson County Health and Human Services division isn’t taking any chances, however, which is why there will be at least one more free chickenpox vaccination clinic from 8 to 11 a.m. Friday at United Methodist Church, 175 N. Main St., Ashland.

The service will be provided by La Clinica, which held a free immunization clinic last Friday. Full protection from chickenpox requires a two-shot series, but students who have received one shot before or after exposure will be allowed to go to school, according to Jackson County Medical Director Dr. Jim Shames.

“We’re trying to make this as easy as possible,” said Shames, adding that 10 children were vaccinated by La Clinica last Friday.

“The incubation period for chickenpox is 10 to 21 days, so you can’t transmit chickenpox to someone else on day zero through 10 after contact with the disease. So there’s not a reason to exclude a child from school within the first 10 days after exposure. What we don’t want is for them to then develop the disease and then pass it on to others. So we’re encouraging parents to get kids immunized during that time period, and they don’t even have to miss any school.”

The district’s last reported case was Jan. 2, according to ASD’s director of student services, Samuel Bogdanove. Before that, a single case was reported Dec. 31. Both of those children are now back in school.

Bogdanove said the district had about a 25-percent non-immunity rate — students who are not immunized and have not contracted chickenpox — prior to the outbreak. That’s down to about 20 percent now.

“That means more kids can be in school, and that’s a good thing,” Bogdanove said. “We really appreciate how responsible the parents have been, letting us know when their kids are ill and keeping their kids who may have chickenpox home.”

About 70 percent of students in Ashland schools were vaccinated in 2013, far below the national average, said Ashland School District nurse Belinda Brown. When it comes to chickenpox, Brown said there’s a perception that it’s not that dangerous, though that isn’t the case for everybody.

“It’s dangerous for people who are pregnant, anyone that has a compromised immune system. It’s a much harder illness to get as an adult, so if you weren’t exposed or vaccinated, as an adult you can get really sick with it. So we’re trying to protect those people in our community, and we have people in each of those categories in each of our school communities.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 or jzavala@dailytidings.com.