The Ministry of Public Health has revealed that one hundred and sixty four cases of chicken pox has been recorded over the last week at the Paramakatoi Secondary School dormitory.
The announcement was made on Thursday by Minister of Public Health, George Norton during an emergency press briefing in the Ministry’s boardroom, Brickdam.
According to the Minister, the situation is one which is “worrying” but nevertheless, “under control.”
To address it, he noted that his Ministry is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Education to contain the outbreak which has since affected 164 persons.
Minister Norton also disclosed that medical and environmental teams have been dispatched and are working to prevent the spread of the virus and treat all infected children.
Pharmaceuticals to treat the virus have also been sent to the region along with the varicella vaccine.
Dr. Oneka Scott who is the focal point for Adolescent Health at the Ministry of Public Health explained that the varicella vaccine is a preventative one that targets vulnerable groups.
“It’s not part of our regular vaccination schedule…they are for special vulnerable population; those include dormitories, schools, orphanages, health, sanitation workers any type of vulnerable group” she said.
Dr Scott also explained that the vaccine is administered to vulnerable persons who have had contact with the virus previously, and that the vaccine will be administered “to everybody who has not been previously affected and is not currently affected by chicken pox.”
Meanwhile, the Health Minister has pointed out that the Ministry is uncertain whether the virus has spread beyond the dorms and as such that school will be closed.
“School would be closed so that those who are in the dorms would remain in the dorms and those who are out of the dorms would not have to go make contact with those who are infected in the dorms,” Dr Norton said.
The Public Health Ministry environmental team and the Ministry of Education are currently conducting a robust education and hygiene campaign in the community to inform resident how to prevent contracting the virus and identifying symptoms.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr Karen Cummings is slated to travel to the area tomorrow to conduct an on-the-ground assessment of the situation.
The varicella virus commonly known as chicken pox is air borne and can be spread by droplets of saliva from coughing, sneezing, talking or even breathing along with sharing utensils. The virus has an incubation period of 10-21 days and symptoms include headaches, fever (mild to moderate), and appearance of rash on the abdomen that spreads to other parts of the body.