Third Unrelated Chickenpox Outbreak Reported in County

Five students at the Sessions Elementary School in San Diego have been diagnosed with chickenpox (varicella) the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency reported today

The cases are unrelated to the two previous outbreaks reported last week.

The first student reported illness on March 29, and the latest student to be diagnosed became ill on May 4. People usually get symptoms of chickenpox 14 to 16 days after exposure, with a range of 10 to 21 days, so additional cases may be reported through May 25.

The children diagnosed range in age from 5 through 10 years old.  None of the children were immunized and three of them are siblings.

The school has notified students and staff about the outbreak.

“The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get both doses of the varicella vaccine,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “The vaccine is very safe and effective.

“Not only does it protect the person who is being vaccinated, making sure your family is immunized helps protect your loved ones, those who are unable to get the shot due to underlying medical conditions and others in the community.”

There have been 31 cases of chickenpox reported in San Diego County so far in 2016. Chickenpox is not reportable to the County Public Health Department unless it occurs in an outbreak or results in a hospitalization or death.

Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella virus. The disease is easily spread by coughing, sneezing or being in contact with chickenpox blisters.

Symptoms of chickenpox include a skin rash of blister-like lesions covering the body but usually more concentrated on the face, scalp, and trunk. The risk of complications increases after puberty and includes bacterial infection of skin lesions, dehydration and pneumonia.

Most, but not all, infected individuals have fever, which develops just before or when the rash appears. If exposed, persons who have been vaccinated against the disease may get a milder illness, with less severe rash and mild or no fever. The illness lasts about 5 to 10 days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two doses of chickenpox vaccine. Children should be vaccinated between 12 and 15 months of age and receive the second dose between 4 and 6 years of age. For more information on chickenpox and immunizations in general, please call the HHSA Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966 or visit the website at

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact