GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, Friday September 30, 2011 – Health authorities are attempting to calm fears of a chickenpox outbreak after a sharp increase was reported.
Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kiran Kumar said 52 cases have been reported for the year, so far, 23 more than the entire 2010.
Half of the current cases involve children under the age of 15, he pointed out, while confirming the discovery of clusters in two schools in the past week.
“There will be many more unreported cases,” he suggested, “People who had chickenpox already will have natural immunization. However, for persons who have not had chickenpox, we recommend that you get vaccinated.”
Parents with “sick” children have also been advised to keep them home to prevent the highly contagious infection from spreading.
“We are monitoring the disease and our school nurses are in regular contact with schools so the affected children can be kept home until the lesions are crusted, which usually occurs in 5-7 days time,” Dr Kumar said.
“We also met the school authorities and organized to offer vaccination at the affected schools. School authorities will be communicating this to the parents to get their unimmunized children vaccinated or to get a booster dose if they wish.”
The authorities say the chickenpox vaccine has been part of the local immunization schedule since 2000, and children are generally vaccinated at the age of 12 months.
Chickenpox is caused by infection with the varicella zoster virus, which causes fever and an itchy rash. Symptoms include a skin rash of blister-like lesions covering the body that is usually more concentrated on the face, scalp, and limbs.
It is transferred from one person to another through direct contact with the broken chickenpox blisters and through airborne droplets.
In 2009, there were 104 cases of chickenpox reported in the Cayman Islands.