STRAIGHT TO THE POINT: Vaccination against chickenpox and shingles is still the best method of protection.
STRAIGHT TO THE POINT: Vaccination against chickenpox and shingles is still the best method of protection. Greg Miller

Calls for immunisation as chickenpox and shingles spread

NEARLY 50 Gympie residents this year have been identified as having the virus which causes both Chickenpox and Shingles.

The Sunshine Coast Hospital and Service have confirmed at least 44 residents have contracted the contagious Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV) which causes the conditions.

"Of these people, fewer than five have been identified as having chickenpox," says public health physician Dr Andrew Langley.

"Most of the remainder occurred in adults and so are more likely to represent cases of shingles."

Although chickenpox is the more contagious condition caused by VZV infection, it is still possible to contract the virus from shingles blisters if they haven't crusted over yet.

VZV still impacts thousands of Australians every year, with over 1900 cases identified in Queensland alone between the months of January and March this year.

Immunisation is still recommended as the best protection against chickenpox.

Gympie parents and families have been asked to be vigilant when the school term resumes.

"Chickenpox is a highly infectious, vaccine-preventable disease commonly occurring during childhood," says Dr Langley.

"Vaccination is currently recommended for children under 18 months of age or for children in year 7 or 8."

Parents have also been warned against 'Pox Parties', where children are deliberately exposed to others with chickenpox to catch the disease themselves.

While treatable, the disease does still pose risks, especially toward young infants and adults who are in an elevated risk group.

If the symptoms of VZV infection have been identified, Dr Langley recommends speedy consultation with a GP.

"In general, consulting with your local doctor is the best way to look after yourself," he says.

HOW TO IDENTIFY CHICKENPOX

- Symptoms appear 2-3 weeks after infection

- Begins with fatigue, fever and swollen glands

- Rash consisting of red spots/blisters appearing across the body