Responding to an outbreak of chicken pox in the Rohingya refugee camps, health sector partners led by the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization have stepped up surveillance and initiated measures to curtail further spread of the disease and prevent any complications.

Chickenpox, also known as varicella, is a highly contagious disease caused by the initial infection with varicella zoster virus. It is an airborne disease which spreads easily through the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. The disease results in a characteristic skin rash that forms small, itchy blisters, which eventually scab over.

It usually starts on the chest, back, and face then spreads to the rest of the body. Other symptoms may include fever, tiredness, and headaches. Symptoms usually last five to seven days. Complications may occasionally include pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, and bacterial skin infections. The disease is often more severe in adults than in children. Symptoms begin 10 to 21 days after exposure to the virus.

"Efforts are on to promote preventive measures"

"Clinicians and health workforce are being trained for identifying chicken pox cases early, and efforts are on to promote preventive measures. Surveillance has been further beefed up in the Rohingya camps,” said Dr Bardan Jung Rana, the WHO Representative to Bangladesh.

A total of 832 Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar camps, have been confirmed with chicken pox since December 2018. Out of which, 51 per cent were reported from Ukhia and 49 per cent from Teknaf, with 39 per cent under the age of 5, according to a joint statement from health ministry and WHO. And during the period, a three-year-old child with chicken pox has died due to causes not directly related to the disease, the statement said.

“Refresher trainings for clinicians and health workers are being conducted to ensure timely diagnosis and referrals to prevent complications,” said Dr Mohammad Abdul Matin, Civil Surgeon of Cox’s Bazar District.

Health and non-health volunteers as well as religious leaders are being engaged to enable communities identify symptoms as well as take precautionary measures to prevent further spread of the disease. Led by the civil surgeon, a team from Ministry of Health (MoH), World Health Organization and other health sector partners are taking all possible measures to curtail the outbreak.