Chickenpox cases rising on Haida Gwaii

  • Feb. 24, 2015 7:00 p.m.

By Stacey MarpleHaida Gwaii ObserverChickenpox is on the rise this year on Haida Gwaii. Old Massett and Masset have had 12 cases reported in the first two months of 2015. No other communities have reported cases, but it is not mandatory for officials to report chickenpox. The actual number of cases may be higher. Most of the reported cases on island have been related to lack of vaccination or follow-through with the vaccines. The rise in cases comes as a small but vocal minority of parents across Canada are refusing to vaccinate their children over new but largely unproven fears of health risks associated with vaccines. As the number of chickenpox cases rise in tandem, Northern Health issued a public notice recently denouncing some common misunderstandings about the illness and the vaccination.”The vaccines are very safe,” said Dr. Raina Fumerton, a medical health officer with Northern Health. “It is important to get the vaccination to protect others, especially yourself.”While the number of chickenpox cases are not enough for Northern Health to declare an outbreak, the numbers are high enough to raise concerns. Chickenpox, commonly a mild illness among children, can have severe effects on people with existing health issues. Pregnant women, newborns, teens, seniors and those with compromised immunity are at risk of serious complications from chickenpox. To be considered fully immune to chickenpox, a person must either have had chickenpox in the past or have had two chickenpox vaccines. The contagious virus can be passed through touching, sneezing and coughing. The virus is contagious two to three days before a rash even appears, until the blisters have crusted over, which usually takes around five days. Fumerton also stressed, that allergic reactions to the vaccine are incredibly rare, saying vaccines are administered to healthy persons only, and that the vaccines themselves have been thoroughly studied in the medical community. Before a vaccination against Chickenpox was available, there were 35,000 reported cases annually in B.C, with one or two deaths. There has been a visible decline of up to 80 per cent in chickenpox cases since 2005. The vaccine is administered once at 12-months old and again with the required booster shots when a child enters kindergarten. The vaccine is a mild dose of the virus that will develop antibodies in a healthy body. Immunity only comes after a person is fully vaccinated or has had the virus in the past. Free vaccines are available from the local health nurse to all adults and teens who have not had chickenpox in the past. .

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