School chickenpox cases increase

MONROE — A new suspected case of chickenpox has been reported at Salem Woods Elementary School, which, if confirmed, would bring the total number of students infected with the highly contagious disease to 18.

The case was reported on Wednesday. “We heard about some spots, but they haven’t been confirmed by a physician yet,” said Rosemary O’Neil, a spokeswoman for the Monroe School District.

School and Snohomish Health District officials officially declared an outbreak of the disease last week when the number of students infected with chickenpox hit 16.

Another confirmed case was reported earlier this week.

Cases first began being reported in late October, O’Neil said.

Both the school district and parents reacted quickly to help slow the spread of the disease, said Amy Blanchard, a communicable disease program manager for the Snohomish Health District.

“I think parents did a fantastic job of cooperating,” Blanchard said.

Salem Woods has an enrollment of 507 students, in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Of the 411 students who needed a shot against the disease, all but 22 have been cleared to return to school, O’Neil said.

Parents of seven students have decided to wait out the incubation period for the disease rather than getting the shot, she said. That means these students could return to school on Dec. 12 if there are no new cases, O’Neil said.

However, if the latest suspected case of chickpox is confirmed, that date may change.

The parents of 10 other students have notified the school district that they have a pending doctor’s appointment, are getting a test to determine their immunity to the disease, or are awaiting for lab results, O’Neil said.

The school district has been unable to contact parents of five other students, she said.

The students are not in school, she said, and the school district is willing to work with the families to help them keep up with their lessons.

Last weekend, 150 of the school’s students were immunized against the disease, she said.

Part of the reason so many students needed to be vaccinated is that recommendations have changed on the number of chicken pox shots children should get.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that children get two doses of the vaccine to provide the best protection, O’Neil said.

So if students had received one dose of the vaccine, health officials required them to get a second. If they had received no chicken pox shots, students had to get the first shot before they returned to school, she said.

On Monday, teachers limited classwork to basic skills, so students who had to miss school wouldn’t fall behind, O’Neil said.

“Whenever they return, there will be no makeup work. No one missed a test. There will be no additional burden on those students,” she said.

On Tuesday, teachers returned to their normal curriculum. The district will work with students who are at home to help them keep up with course work.

Reporter Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or

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