Collin County issues health advisory in response to chickenpox on campus

Editor’s note: This story will be updated as The Mercury gets more information on the situation.

A small outbreak of  varicella, or chickenpox, on campus has prompted Collin County Health Services to issue a health advisory for UTD.

Associate Vice President for Communications John Walls said the university learned of the advisory late in the day of Feb. 11.

The next morning, an email was sent to students, faculty and staff about the outbreak.

The email stated that the disease causes a rash, itching, fever and fatigue and is usually spread in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through physical contact with or breathing in aerosolized virus from varicella lesions.

The email also said an infected person is usually contagious one to two days before symptoms develop and it takes anywhere from 10 to 21 days after exposure for someone to show symptoms of varicella. The illness usually lasts five to 10 days and about 90 percent of people who have been in close contact with someone who has the disease will develop varicella.

Director of Building Operations and Management Kelly Kinnard said the only two areas infected people had in common are the Jindal School of Management and the Erik Jonsson Academic Center, as well as a number of buses. He said Facilities Management talked to AHI, the university’s custodial contractor, to sanitize the infected areas last week.

“They brought some folks in and used a hospital grade disinfectant on all the hard surfaces or what they called ‘touch points,'” he said. “Its door knobs and doors and restrooms, classrooms, gathering spaces, common areas, lobbies, water fountains — that kind of thing.”

Lea Aubrey, the director of the Student Health Center, said in an email to The Mercury that the university does not require students to be vaccinated against varicella. She said the best prevention against the virus is to get vaccinated and that the Student Health Center has the chickenpox vaccine available for those who need it. She also said the Student Health Center offers lab testing for confirmation of immunity to the virus.

As of Friday afternoon, only four cases have been confirmed on campus. Those who have been infected have been advised to stay home from work and school and to not have any outside contact while they are ill.

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