News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 3, 2012

Chickenpox outbreak declared for all of Vigo

County had 1 case of virus in 2011; 57 cases found in recent weeks

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Vigo County has had 57 known cases of chickenpox in recent weeks, prompting Health Commissioner Enrico Garcia to declare a chickenpox outbreak in the county.

Under Indiana Administrative Code, an outbreak means cases of a disease occurring in a community, region or particular population “at a rate clearly in excess of what is normally expected,” according to the Vigo County Health Department.

The 57 cases of chickenpox is “cause to declare an outbreak,” according to the health department.

By comparison, in 2009, there were 22 cases of chickenpox in Vigo County; in 2010, four cases; 2011, one case; and this year, 57 cases.

In a related development Friday, Lost Creek Elementary was the latest school to have an outbreak (five or more cases under age 13), and health officials conducted a vaccination clinic there in the afternoon.

In response to the countywide outbreak, the Vigo County Health Department and Vigo County School Corp. will conduct shot clinics at Sarah Scott Middle School on Nov. 9 and Nov. 10, with times yet to be established.

The shot clinics will target Vigo County children who are not optimally immunized for chickenpox. This includes students currently enrolled in school, parochial and private schools, and home-schooled children. Also targeted are children older than one year of age, but not yet enrolled in school. This includes children in pre-k and daycares.

According to Census data, there are about 5,000 children under the age of 6 and older than 1 year.

The focus is on immunization of children, the age group most likely to contract the disease. “We are looking at the most vulnerable population,” said Joni Wise, health department administrator. “Hopefully we’ll get as many children vaccinated as possible.”

The Vigo County School Corp. and health officials say there are 421 students and 276 staff (born after 1980) who are either under-vaccinated or lack documentation. Most students already have the required single dose for school immunization requirements, but need a second dose due to the outbreak.

While arranging the clinics and responding to the outbreaks is time-consuming and resource-draining, everyone is working together to respond to the challenge, Wise said.

Dan Tanoos, VCSC superintendent, praised Wise and the health department for their efforts. “They have done a wonderful job of working with us,” he said.

He noted that as of Nov. 13, those VCSC students and staff who don’t have immunizations or documentation that they had the illness will be excluded from school for 21 days from the last documented case at that school.

More information is expected to be released on Monday, according to the health department.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or