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Spike in chickenpox cases reported on Kenai Peninsula

Alaska Dispatch

Public health officials with the state of Alaska have issued a warning about a spike in chickenpox cases on the Kenai Peninsula.

All nine cases of varicella (chickenpox) that were reported to state epidemiologists in September came from unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated children in Homer and Soldotna, two of the largest communities on the Kenai Peninsula, according to a health alert Friday from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Six cases in Homer came in "three separate clusters involving several schools," according to the announcement. The infected children were unrelated, according to the statement, suggesting a wider outbreak of the viral infection across the peninsula is likely.

All of the children were pre-school aged, according to the statement. The best way to contain a chickenpox outbreak is to isolate those who have contracted the infection or who are at risk of contracting it; and for parents to make sure their children have been vaccinated against the virus.

"For most healthy people, Varicella (chickenpox) is usually a mild rash illness, but it has the potential for serious complications and death," the statement warns, "especially for certain high risk groups – infants, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and the immune compromised."

Doctors and other health care providers were urged to report any new cases of chickenpox to the state Section of Epidemiology: outbreaks cannot be contained or controlled if health departments are unaware of the conditions under which they occur.