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Students lacking shots must stay home

A chickenpox outbreak at a Spokane elementary school prompted health officials Thursday to order students in six classrooms to stay home until May 2 unless they can provide proof they’re immune to the disease.

And another order like the one issued Thursday at Jefferson Elementary School will probably be put in place at another Spokane school today, said Julie Graham, spokeswoman for the Spokane Regional Health District. She would not identify the school.

In March, Garfield Elementary School was placed under such an order because of a chickenpox outbreak in which 11 students became ill.

“We appear to have a community issue,” she said. “It’s important for people to get vaccinated.”

Fourteen students in six classes at Jefferson have contracted the disease in the past couple of weeks, Graham said.

By Thursday morning, “We realized that it was widespread enough and enough kids had it that it was really important to get in here and get it stopped,” she said.

Angie Dierdorff learned Thursday evening, when the school nurse called, that her two sons must show they’re immune or stay home from Jefferson beginning today.

Both her boys had chickenpox when they were very young, but besides their scars there’s no proof.

She plans to call her doctor today to see how soon she can get blood tests done to show they aren’t at risk.

“They’ll be out of school for at least a couple days,” she said. “My kids are sobbing because they’re those strange kids that actually love school.”

WASL testing begins next week. She’s hopeful she’ll get documentation in time.

“It’s going to cause a lot of problems for a lot of parents,” she said. “I assume every pediatrician in town, at least on the South Hill, is going to be inundated with them.”

Dierdorff considers herself lucky. She works from home and didn’t need to worry about child care today.

But she’ll be watching a few Jefferson students whose parents couldn’t get out of work.

“It just seems kind of unfortunate that they couldn’t accept an affidavit from parents saying they had it,” she said.

Graham said that the outbreak stopped at Garfield after health officials ordered students to prove their immunizations or stay home.

“The actions that we’re doing now at Jefferson did stop the outbreak from spreading” at Garfield, Graham said.

She didn’t know how many students at Jefferson will be affected by the order.

Graham said such steps came from a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about chickenpox outbreaks.

The center actually recommends that any student from an infected school stay home if they can’t provide proof of immunization, not just those in affected classrooms, Graham said.

“I know that people aren’t used to this for chickenpox,” Graham said.