The N.W.T.’s chief public health officer, Dr. Kami Kandola, is advising people in Tuktoyaktuk about an ongoing outbreak of chicken pox — also known as varicella — infecting multiple people in different households.
You may have been exposed if you were at the community arena during a hockey game on Jan. 22, or on the Canadian North flight 5T 244 from Yellowknife to Inuvik on Thursday, Feb. 2.
Chicken pox is usually a mild illness in children and others with healthy immune systems, but it spreads easily and can be dangerous in those who are immune compromised, pregnant, or older. People who’ve already had the illness or been vaccinated against it are less likely to be at risk.
People who get chicken pox are contagious from one to two days before symptoms start until all lesions — the “pox” of chicken pox — are crusted. This can be up to 10 days or more, reads a news release from the chief public health officer (CPOH).
Symptoms of chicken pox may include:
- fever, felling unwell, headache and loss of appetite.
- lesions or pox, appearing first on the body and face, then arms and legs and elsewhere.
Severe complications of the illness can include skin or soft tissue infections that can attack organs such as the heart, brain and liver. People who are pregnant may pass the infection on to the baby. Death can occur.
The best way to avoid complications is by getting vaccinated. The CPHO advises anyone who wants to make sure their vaccinations are up to date to call the Tuktoyaktuk health centre at 867-977-2321.
Kandola is also asking anyone who becomes ill and develops a rash to notify the health centre and isolate away from others, particularly pregnant women, elders and those who are unvaccinated.
Treatments for the illness must be applied within four days of its onset to be effective.
Those who were exposed at the hockey arena or on the flight to Yellowknife are asked to watch for symptoms for the next 21 days.
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