OGDEN — The Weber-Morgan Health Department has reported nine new cases of chickenpox at Hillcrest Elementary in the past week, and officials are encouraging parents to keep their children's vaccination schedules current.

"Even though these reported cases are a concern to us, I believe this seasonal outbreak will be limited based upon high vaccination rates among the school's students," says Gary House, executive director of the Weber-Morgan Health Department.

Health officials remind parents that state law requires all Utah school children to receive chickenpox vaccinations before they enter kindergarten. As required by law, the health department may be asking unvaccinated students to stay home if they have been exposed.

Most of the recent cases are confined to the third-grade classroom, with the exception of a sibling of one of the students who is in high school. Many of the students had not received recommended booster vaccines and those who were previously vaccinated are experiencing much milder symptoms than those who have not been immunized.

"Vaccinated children may still experience a very mild form of the disease because they did not develop adequate immunity against the virus," House says. "This is why we recommend vaccination boosters for added protection. "

Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease that typically peaks in winter and early spring. Symptoms include fever, runny nose and painful or itchy skin lesions. Individuals are infectious before the symptoms become apparent and can spread the disease long after the lesions have scabbed over.

Individuals who have not been vaccinated subject themselves to a higher risk of contracting the disease and suffering potentially life-threatening complications, House says.

For more information or to be vaccinated, contact your primary care physician or the Weber-Morgan Health Department, 801-399-7252. Cost is about $85 and is covered by most insurance plans. Weber-Morgan Health Department also has a Vaccines For Children, a federally funded program for those who qualify.