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Thursday, August 11, 2022
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University Warns Students of Chicken Pox Outbreak

After six South Campus students were diagnosed last week with the Varicella virus, commonly known as chicken pox, the Student Health Center is taking steps to inform students and faculty about the outbreak and encourage them to get vaccinated.

Frank Carnevale, clinical assistant professor of the Student Health Center, said chicken pox "occasionally occurs on college campuses in isolated cases" during this time of year. He became alarmed after several students were diagnosed with the virus.

"That is what is prompting us to at this point to educate as much of the campus as we can and encourage individuals who have not had the chicken pox illness in the past or the vaccine to get vaccinated," Carnevale said.

The health center began spreading the word through announcements and information posted on their Web site, e-mails to faculty list-serves encouraging professors to inform their students about the illness and notifying residence hall advisors, since students live in "close quarters" that facilitate the virus' spread.

"What would be helpful is if students become aware of any cases of the chicken pox if they could notify me at the Student Health Center," said Carnevale. "That will help us target our educational efforts in terms of notification."

Joseph Krakowiak, director of the University Residence Halls and Apartments, said he is not concerned because the virus is treatable and the vaccines are easily available at the health center on South Campus.

"If you look at the difference between medicine today and medicine 30 years ago, it's amazing," said Krakowiak. "It really isn't as bad as it's been in the past."

Residence hall staff members have been notifying students through e-mails as well as posters in both the residence halls and campus apartment buildings and providing educational materials on Varicella from the New York State Health Department.

"The residence halls, I've got to say, have been extremely helpful and cooperative with us," said Carnevale.

Although Varicella is most commonly known as a childhood disease, Carnevale noted approximately 10 percent of the adult population have never been exposed to the virus and therefore do not have the antibodies to prevent infection.

"Unfortunately . chicken pox in adults can cause a more serious illness," said Carnevale. "One of the problems with chicken pox is that later in life, it can reactivate and when it reactivates, it's called the shingles."

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The shingles is a more serious version of the virus resulting in painful rashes and severe, flu-like symptoms.

Carnevale said vaccinations would decrease the number of student infected during the outbreak and students exposed to the chicken pox would develop less severe symptoms.

According to the N.Y. Department of Health's Web site, chicken pox can be spread through the air or contact with fluid from skin blisters, a symptom of infection. Those who are allergic to gelatin, neomycin or have received a previous dose of the vaccine should not receive the chicken pox vaccine. Anyone who is severely ill, pregnant, has recently received a blood transfusion or has HIV/AIDS or cancer should consult with a doctor before receiving the vaccine.

For more information, students and faculty should visit the Student Health Center's Web site at or call 829-3316.



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