Health officials are continuing to closely monitor a recent outbreak of chickenpox in the Region Eight locale of Paramakatoi. As at November 23, last, preliminary investigations suggested that there were over 100 students accommodated in the Paramakatoi Secondary School Dormitory who were inflicted with the disease.
It was discovered that a 12-year-old girl from Monkey Mountain was the first person to become infected in September, upon her return to the school’s dormitory from home.
Although information suggests that the outbreak is currently under control, the Ministry of Public Health is concerned that there is a possibility that more cases could be detected.
Details of the outbreak and this possible development were on Tuesday brought to the attention of Cabinet by Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton.
It was revealed that among the affected were students in the 5-14 and 15 and over, age group population.
Measures to control the outbreak have included vaccination of the unaffected. However, health officials have discerned that more cases are anticipated. This was in light of the fact that some children were sent home without being seen by health personnel or being sensitized on the need for isolation and modes of transmission.
What was also revealed to Cabinet is that during an investigation of the outbreak it was found that some medication needed to tackle the disease was not readily available. It was found that there was no panadol and limited amounts of calamine lotion. As such, part of the measure to combat the outbreak included the provision of Calamine acyclovir, vaccines and panadol.
According to information presented to Cabinet, the Surveillance Unit of the Ministry of Public Health was informed on the morning of November 24 by the Maternal and Child Health Department of a suspected outbreak of chickenpox at the Paramakatoi Secondary School in Region Eight.
Efforts were reportedly immediately made to contact the Medex there and the Regional Health officer. The officials there were instructed to make inquiries into the report and mobilize a team to travel from Mahdia to Paramakatoi. Similarly, a team was mobilized from Georgetown to travel to the region.
Travelling from Georgetown were Dr Karen Gordon-Boyle, Deputy Chief Medical Officer; Dr Kay Shako, Director Regional Health Services; Mr. Seewchan, Coordinator of Regional Health Services; Mr. Chichester, Environmental Officer; Medex J. Jessamy, EPI Officer; Medex C. Bhojedat, Emergency operations Centre/Port Health Officer and Ms Nandanie Jerry, Surveillance Officer.
Another team, including Ms Dawn Dunn, midwife; Ms Marcia Thomas, Receptionist/clerk and Donica Vanlong, Environmental Health Assistant was also dispatched from Mahdia sub-region to help the process along.
It is expected that daily reporting will continue until the outbreak ends.
Chickenpox is caused by the Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV), which spreads mainly through tiny droplets from infected people that get into the air after they breathe, talk, cough or sneeze. Using the utensils of an infected person can also be a means of transmission, according to Director of Adolescent Health Dr. Oneka Scott.
The resulting disease is manifested by the development of blister-like rash or boils that first appear on the face and can spread throughout the body even inside the mouth, eyelids and/or genital area. The rash or boils are usually itchy and fluid-filled and are complemented by fever, tiredness, loss of appetite and headache.
The disease, according to Dr. Scott, has an incubation period of between 10 and 21 days. However, she asserted that the disease could spread from an infected person to another one or two days before symptoms are manifested. The final stage of the disease is characterised by the formation of scabs (flakes) on the skin. Essentially, an infected person is contagious about two days before the rash appears, and then continues being so for about four or five days.
While there are known complications linked to the disease, it has been noted that these are not common in infected persons who are healthy. Some of the complications can include skin infection, dehydration, pneumonia and swelling of the brain.
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