Health Ministry issues alert on Chickenpox

The Ministry of Health & Medical Services is issuing a health alert to the public after recording an increase in cases of chickenpox within the Suva Medical Subdivision.

This alert is being issued after the number of cases surpassed the Suva subdivision alert threshold of 53 cases per month.   An increase in cases is usually expected between July to October in Fiji, however currently the Suva Medical Subdivision has recorded an increase in cases which is likely to spread.

Chickenpox (varicella) is a viral illness caused by the herpes zoster virus (also known as the Varicella-Zoster virus).

The infection is contagious and anyone who has not had chickenpox or not been vaccinated in the past can get chickenpox.

The symptoms of chickenpox occur two weeks after people are exposed to the virus. Chickenpox may begin with a sudden slight fever, running nose, feeling generally unwell and a skin rash. The rash usually begins as small red lumps that turn into little blisters that usually break leaving scabs.

The virus is spread by coughing in the early stages and later by direct contact with the fluid in the blisters. Pregnant women should avoid contact with anyone with chickenpox and should see their doctor for suspected chickenpox-like illnesses.

Most people recover without complications, but sometimes the infection can lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia and inflammation of the brain. Rarely, the infection can be fatal.

The public is advised to take precautions in preventing and controlling the disease. People with chickenpox should avoid attendance at childcare, school, work or any public places.

Meanwhile the Health Ministry urges the public to take necessary precautions while people with chickenpox should cover the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, dispose of soiled tissues, wash their hands well and not share eating utensils, food or drinking cups.