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Outbreak of chickenpox on Gympie, Sunshine Coast

AN OUTBREAK of chicken pox in Gympie and on the Sunshine Coast is likely connected to the region's low childhood vaccination rates.

Sixty per cent more cases of chicken pox have been reported this year than for the same period in the last five years.

Sunshine Coast Public Health Unit director Dr Andrew Langley said that between January 19 and February 16, 48 notified cases of chickenpox were recorded in the SCHHS district, which Gympie is part of.

This was "significantly higher" than previous years, he said.

Queensland Health and the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register revealed in 2013 that one in 10 Gympie children are not vaccinated.

Chicken pox is a highly contagious disease with no specific treatment.

For most children it is a mild illness that does not last long, but some children develop life-threatening complications like pneumonia or encephalitis, making the disease fatal in about three in 100,000 cases. It is more severe in adults.

If a woman develops chickenpox during her pregnancy, there is a small chance of damage to her unborn baby. If she develops chickenpox late in pregnancy or very soon after birth, the infection can be life threatening for the baby.

"The Public Health Unit strongly urges parents to ensure their children are fully vaccinated against chickenpox," Dr Langley said.

"Parents can contact their local general practitioner or council clinic for advice on vaccination."

DID YOU KNOW?

  •  From July 1, 2013, the chickenpox vaccine has been given as part of a combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine.
  • The National Immunisation Program Schedule provides the vaccine free to all children aged 18 months and 13 years (Year 8 students) who have not had a history of chickenpox or have not been vaccinated.
  • The vaccine for 13-year-olds is offered through Queensland Health's School Based Vaccination Program.

Topics:  chickenpox gympie sunshine coast

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