The Cal Poly Health Center reported that a student living in campus housing had been infected with chicken pox, according to health staff.
The student originally sought treatment at a local emergency room, and upon returning to campus, the resident shared news of the illness with a resident adviser, who in turn reported it to health staff on Thursday morning.
“This is by no means an outbreak,” said Martin Bragg, a psychologist and director of Cal Poly Health and Counseling Services. “This is only one case, which is not all that unusual.”
Persons who have previously been infected with chicken pox or who received vaccinations are likely immune to the virus, health staff said. For the few who contract the virus a second time or after being vaccinated, the symptoms are usually much milder.
Although the virus is airborne, it is usually contracted through direct contact such as kissing, sneezing, coughing and sharing of food or drinks, or by touching the fluid from a chicken pox blister. Bragg urges students to refrain from sharing food or other utensils, and to wash their hands regularly to avoid being infected.
Generally, persons who contract chicken pox later in life suffer more severe symptoms. The virus is a larger threat to pregnant women, as studies show that contracting the virus during early stages of pregnancy can lead to serious birth defects in the baby.
Chicken pox manifests itself by causing flu-like symptoms, followed by itchy sores or blisters on the skin. Early symptoms include fever, feeling sick or tired, loss of appetite, headache and/or a sore throat. Rash symptoms usually appear one to two days after.
Bragg further urges any student who experiences initial flu-like symptoms characteristic of chicken pox to seek medical attention immediately. If diagnosed and treated early, the severity of the illness can be greatly reduced with proper medication, he said.
A person most easily spreads chicken pox before they even know they are infected, or in the two to three days before rash symptoms appear. It usually takes about 14 to 16 days for symptoms to appear after exposure to the virus.
Cal Poly health staff asks students who experience these symptoms to immediately contact their healthcare provider or the Health Center.