There has been a total of 104 confirmed cases of chickenpox at the Paramakatoi Secondary School’s Dormitory in Region 8, a health team dispatched to the area has reported.
The Ministry of Public Health announced an outbreak in the area last week and Public Health Minister Dr George Norton had said there were 160 reported cases of persons having been infected over a one-week period.
In light of the outbreak, a team from the ministry, including Junior Minister Karen Cummings, was expected to travel to the area to gather more information, while medical and environmental teams were working to prevent the spread of the virus and treat all infected children.
Stabroek News has since been informed that the team has been able to confirm 104 of the previously stated 160 cases.
This newspaper was told that the reason for the remaining 56 cases not being confirmed was as a result of the students not having visited the health centre in the area as the others would have done.
Stabroek News was also told that a total of 900 varicella vaccines were given to the community for preventative treatment against the spread of the virus among the population in Paramakatoi.
Additionally, the environmental team has since advised that a section of the dorm be utilized as a quarantine area for affected students.
It was also noted that health officials in the area have been instructed to be on alert for any new cases that may occur.
Varicella, commonly known as chickenpox, is a disease that is caused by the Varicella -Zoster Virus. Patients develop a blister-like rash or boil, which first appears on the face and trunk, and then spreads throughout the body, including inside the mouth, eyelids and in the genital area.
The virus is airborne and can be spread mainly through tiny droplets from infected persons when they breathe, talk, cough or sneeze. Symptoms include the presence of a rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters that eventually turn into scabs, mild to moderate fever, tiredness, loss of appetite and headaches.
Though not common, chickenpox can also lead to serious issues, such as skin infections, dehydration, pneumonia and swelling of the brain.
According to a Public Health Ministry statement, chickenpox has an incubation period of between 10 and 21 days, meaning the rash will appear from 10 to 21 days after the virus has infected the patient. However, it said an infected person is contagious about two days before the rash appears, and then continues being contagious for another four to five days until all the blisters have formed scabs.
Treatment of the virus, the ministry noted, includes the use of non-aspirin medications, such as acetaminophen, to relieve fever from chickenpox, Calamine lotion, which may help prevent itching and irritation of the skin, as well as the administering of antiviral medications in specific cases.
However, the chickenpox vaccine is considered the best way to prevent the contraction of chickenpox. Children, adolescents, and adults, it is recommended, should get two doses of the vaccine, which is considered very safe and effective at preventing the disease.
Most people who get the vaccine will not get chickenpox. If a vaccinated person does get chickenpox, it is usually mild—with fewer red spots or boils and mild or no fever. The chickenpox vaccine prevents almost all cases of severe disease.
In cases where vaccination is not possible, the ministry said preventative measures must be taken from coming into contact with droplets of saliva and the blisters of an infected person.
This includes hand washing, protection when sneezing and coughing, and not sharing utensils.