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Breakout of chickenpox on the loose in Rusk County

The Rusk County Public Health Department has announced a chickenpox outbreak at Ladysmith Elementary School, which could potentially spread to neighboring school districts and counties.

“Five cases of the virus have been confirmed,” said Dawn Brost RN, health officer for Rusk County.

Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It can cause an itchy, blister-like rash. The rash first appears on the chest, back and face, then spreads over the entire body, causing between 250 and 500 itchy blisters.

Chickenpox can be serious, especially in babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system. People are asked to contact their healthcare provider or Rusk County Public Health Department, for additional guidance if they consider themselves to be in one of the categories listed above.

Rusk County has seen four cases of breakthrough chickenpox, which occurs in people who have been vaccinated for the disease. The symptoms are usually milder, with fewer or no blisters (or just red spots), mild or no fever, and shorter duration of illness. These individuals are still contagious and can spread the disease.

Children with chickenpox should stay at home until all lesions have crusted over. Children with vaccine exemptions who receive the first dose of the vaccine, can return to school immediately. Those who have only had one dose of the vaccine, must receive the second dose in order to return to school.

Children may also choose not to receive the vaccine and then must stay at home (quarantined) until Jan. 1.

The Rusk County Public Health Department will have vaccine available at no charge for any individual, regardless of insurance status. Call the health department or a provider if there are additional questions.