Chickenpox cases at 2 Halifax-area schools prompt reminder to parents

Here are some facts you should be aware of when it comes to getting vaccinations.

Parents at two Halifax-area schools have been sent letters to remind them of the symptoms of chickenpox — and to spread information about immunization — after one confirmed and two suspected cases.

The letters were sent out this week on April 3 and 5 at O’Connell Drive Elementary in Porters Lake and Park West School in Halifax.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) says the confirmed case was at Park West and the two suspected cases are at O’Connell Drive Elementary.

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According to a spokesperson from NSHA, chickenpox is “not as common as it used to be due to vaccination programs” but that it’s “not unusual to receive reports of chickenpox in schools.”

The vaccine for chickenpox, also known as varicella, has been part of the routine immunization schedule for children in Nova Scotia since 2003. Children can receive the vaccine at the age of one for free.

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Children aged four to six and non-immune health care workers were also offered the vaccine.

In 2005, a varicella catch-up program was started for Grade 4 students. And in 2012, a two-dose varicella program was introduced for children at age one, with a second dose at age four to six.

Due to privacy reasons, the NSHA can’t say whether the recent cases involved vaccinated children. Chickenpox cases also not required to be reported to Public Health, which means statistics on occurrence are difficult to compile.

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According to the health authority, chickenpox in childhood is usually a mild disease. However, it can be serious for people who have immune diseases, pregnant women and unborn babies. Adults who get chickenpox also tend to be sicker than children.

The highly-contagious virus is spread by direct contact with infected fluids from the nose and throat and blisters in the skin. Symptoms can include fever, an itchy rash and tiredness.

Most people don’t need treatment for chickenpox.

According to the Nova Scotia Communicable Diseases Manual, children with chickenpox should not be given ASA or aspirin.

“ASA may increase the chance that a child gets Reye’s syndrome which is a severe illness that can damage the liver and brain,” it warns.

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