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Chickenpox outbreak – parents and school staff are advised to take precautions to prevent cluster outbreaks of the disease in elementary school children, chickenpox’s #1 most susceptible population

According to the surveillance data of the Taipei City’s school campus infectious disease reporting system, the chickenpox clustering outbreak events up to June 6, 2018 numbered 33 events with a total of 99 patients. The top three population clusters were elementary students, at 19 cases and 59 patients (57.6%), followed by high schools (including vocational schools) at 7 cases and 15 patients (21.2%), and kindergartens at 6 cases and 23 patients (18.2%). The results were consistent with the epidemiological survey done by the CDC. The popularization of public-funded chickenpox vaccinations in recent years has caused a shift of outbreak age in school children from 3-9 years to 9-15 years. This, however, demonstrated that chickenpox outbreaks still commonly occur in elementary students.
 
According to Shao Qing Chen, Division Chief of the Division of Disease Control at the Department of Health, Taipei City Government, chickenpox is a highly infectious disease caused by the Varicella-Zoster Virus. The disease is contagious as early as 5 days before a skin rash develops, and communicates via skin exposure, air, coughing and contact with blister fluids or mucosal secretions. Students are especially susceptible to chickenpox cluster infection in a closed indoor environment; the virus is often contracted from their surrounding peers by talking, playing, mixed lessons or riding public transportation. The initial symptoms (1-2 days before the skin rash develops) include mild fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, headache, aching muscles or joints. Skin rash develops subsequently and progresses into exanthema, blisters and pustules, followed by the formation of scabs. They will usually recover from these symptoms in 2 to 4 weeks. If children are suspected to have chickenpox symptoms, seek medical attention immediately and suspend their class attendance for at least 7 days, or until the blisters have scabbed over, so that no further infection is spread from the patient to others. Additionally, chickenpox patients are advised to avoid contacting high risk groups such as infants less than 1 year of age, pregnant women, adults and immunodeficient patients, as contraction of the virus can often induce complications such as secondary bacterial infection, pneumonia, meningitis and death.