by Vanessa Braithwaite
THE MINISTRY of Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Education is monitoring what has been deemed an outbreak of the chickenpox virus at the Paramakatoi Secondary School Dormitory in Region 8.
Since being informed of the situation one week ago, the entities are working together to prevent the spread of the virus that has already affected 160 students residing at the dormitory.
All affected children have been quarantined and the varicella vaccine used to prevent contraction of the disease will be given to those at risk of the exposure which include the children, teachers, health workers and community members. “We have made available the necessary pharmaceuticals that would be required in that area, as well as efforts are being made to get the vaccine that has been introduced only recently in the country up into that area to prevent persons who have not been affected by this disease from contracting it,” Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton told media operatives on Thursday.
The Ministry of Education has decided to suspend classes from the two affected schools until the situation returns to normal.
Minister Norton posited that while the virus was not lethal, the situation could still be deemed worrying as the nation’s children were affected. “It is worrying, despite the fact that we have it under control,” he said. The Ministry is still trying to ascertain the total population of the dormitory and the boy to girl ratio of those affected and whether teachers are also affected.
Director of Adolescent health, Dr. Oneka Scott said that the preventative vaccine Varicella, was not previously distributed in Paramakatoi, as it was not part of the regular immunization schedule. “It was not a vaccine that was used (before) in a regular immunization schedule…so we had given it out to orphanages, some communities or companies that has a previous outbreak of Varicella, sanitation workers and health care workers,” Scott revealed.
Chickenpox also known as Varicella is an airborne disease that causes patients to develop a blister –like rash or boil, which first appears on the face or trunk, and then spreads throughout the body. The virus spreads through tiny droplets from infected people that get the air they breathe, talk, cough or sneeze. It has an incubation period of between 10 to 21 days. The classic symptom of chickenpox is a rash that turns into itchy, fluid filled blisters that turn into scabs. Other symptoms are fever, tiredness, loss of appetite and headaches.