HEALTH WARNING: Darling Downs Health says more than 400 cases of chickenpox have been report this year. Picture: Contributed
HEALTH WARNING: Darling Downs Health says more than 400 cases of chickenpox have been report this year. Picture: Contributed

More than 400 cases of chickenpox, potentially more

AFTER a student at Nanango State School was diagnosed with a case of the chickenpox, they issued a health warning to their wider community on Facebook.

Darling Downs Public Health Unit Director Dr Penny Hutchinson said for privacy reasons they can't confirm individual cases in the region.

However, she said from January 1, 2019 until the week starting Monday, November 4 2019 there were 434 notifications of chickenpox across the Darling Downs region.

"Chickenpox is often underreported so this figure is possibly an underestimate," Dr Hutchinson said.

"It is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus.

The disease starts with cordlike symptoms such as a mild fever, headache, runny nose and cough.

"A day or two later a rash begins, starting as small pink blotches but rapidly progressing to itchy blisters which usually last three to four days before drying out and turning into scabs," she said.

She said for the majority of children, chickenpox is a mild illness of short duration with complete recovery.

"While chickenpox is usually a mild disease in healthy children, life-threatening complications such as pneumonia or inflammation of the brain are possible," Dr Hutchinson said.

"Chickenpox is more severe in adults and can cause serious and even fatal illness in immunosuppressed individuals of any age," Dr Hutchinson said.

"Immunisation is the best way to protect against chickenpox.

"The National Immunisation Program Schedule provides a safe and effective combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine free of charge to all children aged 18 months.

"Varicella vaccine has been shown to be effective in preventing chickenpox if given within three days and possibly up to five days of contact with an infected person, with earlier administration being preferable," she said.

Dr Hutchinson said anyone with concerns should seek medical advice immediately.

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