Chicken pox cases up in Cayman

Public Health officials have said they have seen an increased number of chicken pox cases in the Cayman Islands in the past three months.

In the first three months of the year there were 55 reported cases of the disease – up from 31 cases during the same period in 2008 and five cases in the first quarter of 2007.

As of 17 April, there had been 11 cases for the month, significantly up from the seven, five and four cases seen in the months of April 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively.

‘The Public Health Department is monitoring the disease and will issue a press release and notice to all schools and pre-schools, so that the affected children can be kept home until the lesions are crusted, which usually occurs in 5-7 days time,’ said Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kiran Kumar.

While chicken pox is a notifiable disease under the Cayman Islands Public Health Law – meaning doctors must report cases to public health officials – Mr. Kumar said he assumes there have been additional cases that have not been reported.

He added that susceptible persons are 80 to 90 per cent at risk of getting the disease once exposed to it.

The Varicella vaccine has been on the immunisation schedule in the Cayman Islands since 2000 and is given to babies at 12 months.

50 per cent of the cases in the past three years have occurred in people aged 15 and above, Mr. Kumar explained.

Chicken pox is a disease caused by infection with the varicella zoster virus, which causes fever and an itchy rash. Symptoms can include a skin rash of blister-like lesions, covering the body but usually more concentrated on the face, scalp, and trunk.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control, most, but not all, infected individuals have fever, which develops just before or when the rash appears. If exposed, persons who have been vaccinated against the disease may get a milder illness, with less severe rash (sometimes involving only a few red bumps that look similar to insect bites) and mild or no fever.

For more information, contact the Public Health Department on 244-2648.