A cluster of three chicken pox cases in Birmingham, Michigan, prompted the school district to exclude unvaccinated children until April 14 to prevent the virus from spreading.
The directive, issued by the Oakland County Health Division, affects about a dozen families, according to Birmingham schools superintendent Daniel Nerad.
Those families have an option to have their children vaccinated, or keep them at home until any danger of illness has passed. Nerad says the district will support the children in continuing their school work during the period of absence and that parents are generally understanding of the restriction.
Shane Bies, an administrator for Oakland County Health Division, says that the county has used exclusion of unvaccinated children in the past for outbreaks of mumps and measles.
For chicken pox, the decision was triggered by the three-case cluster in Birmingham, which is unusual for the county. "All the other cases of chicken pox we’ve had reported from schools and school districts have been a single case. It’s not worthwhile for mandatory school exclusion for every isolated random case of chicken pox," says Bies.
Michigan has recently tightened regulations for unvaccinated children enrolled in public schools. Families are now required to attend an educational session at their local public health department in order to receive a non-medical waiver for vaccination. The information provided in the session includes the benefits and risks of vaccination, as well as notification that school exclusion may be required in the case of an outbreak. According to Bies, "That's something that parents really need to consider when they're deciding whether or not to get their children vaccinated."