Chickenpox Outbreak

PRESS RELEASE: 2019-011

The Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) has recently received reports of seven (7) cases of chickenpox in students attending M.A. Ulloa Elementary School.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a chickenpox outbreak in a school setting as five (5) or more cases within a two-month period in the same school facility.

Chickenpox is a disease caused by the varicella vaccine.  Chickenpox spreads in the air through coughing or sneezing.  It can also be spread by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from chickenpox blisters.

Chickenpox most commonly causes an illness that lasts about 7-10 days.  The classic symptom of chickenpox is a rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters that eventually turn into scabs.  The rash may first show up on the face, chest, and back then spread to the rest of the body, including inside the mouth, eyelids.   Due to the nature of the disease and potential risks, people who are immunocompromised or pregnant and who are also unimmunized should take action to protect their health.

DPHSS and Guam Department of Education officials are currently assessing those students identified as close contacts of known cases.  Faculty, staff and parents of students affected are being notified by letter and provided information on vaccination activities planned at the school.

DPHSS encourages parents to check their children’s immunization (shot) records to ensure they received all age-appropriate vaccines. All parents should ensure their child receives the first dose of chickenpox vaccine at 12 months of age, then a second dose of chickenpox vaccine at 4-6 years of age. 

Furthermore, all health care providers are urged to review and update the immunization status of all children and adolescent patients they see.  Routine vaccination of children should continue as recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practice (ACIP).  If vaccine is contraindicated because of illness, a follow-up appointment should be scheduled.

If you have any questions, please contact Annette L. Aguon, Immunization Program Manager, Bureau of Communicable Disease Control at 735-7143.