Education

Cal Poly student has chickenpox. Here’s why the campus is on alert

One family’s struggle with chickenpox

One mom tells the story of how her son, Adam, contracted a serious case of chickenpox that led to complications. Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases recorded the stories of 8 families affected by vaccine-preventable illness.
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One mom tells the story of how her son, Adam, contracted a serious case of chickenpox that led to complications. Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases recorded the stories of 8 families affected by vaccine-preventable illness.

A Cal Poly student has a confirmed case of chickenpox, a highly contagious disease that can cause shingles and is especially dangerous for babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system.

While generations of Americans have experienced the red, itchy rash as a normal part of childhood, chickenpox can be serious and even deadly for adults.

That’s because it can cause bacterial infections, pneumonia, infection or inflammation of the brain, and bleeding problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cal Poly administrators pushed a campus-wide email alert Tuesday afternoon after receiving a notification from the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department that confirmed the diagnosis.

“Due to the serious nature of the illness, Cal Poly officials are working with the student to identify any on-campus spaces they visited to reduce the risk of exposure to others,” the email said.

It can take ten days to three weeks after exposure for someone to develop chickenpox, according to the CDC.

Anyone who shows signs of the disease — including a fever, headache, feeling tired, loss of appetite and an itchy rash of blisters — should go to the doctor, urgent care or emergency room immediately.

Immunization requirements to attend Cal Poly include chickenpox, and history of contracting the disease does not meet compliance. The California State University system allows for exemptions to that policy based on medical exemptions.

Whether or not the student with chickenpox had the Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine has not been made public.

Cal Poly media relations director Matt Lazier said privacy laws prevent administrators from discussing specific students.

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Monica Vaughan reports on health, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo County, oil and wildlife at The Tribune. She previously covered crime and justice in the Sacramento Valley, is a graduate of the University of Oregon journalism school and is a sixth-generation Californian. Have an idea for a story? Email: mvaughan@thetribunenews.com

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