More Toowoomba schools report chickenpox cases

MORE Toowoomba schools and daycare centres have confirmed chickenpox cases with students showing signs urged to stay home.

It follows an alert issued from Toowoomba State High School on Thursday of a case confirmed at the campus and advice from the region's public health unit.

Parents reported the highly infectious disease, which is common in young children and students, at several schools in both the public and private sector.

It is understood other schools with confirmed cases include Toowoomba East State School, St Mary's, St Joseph's College and St Anthony's.

The Education Department yesterday was unable to confirm to The Chronicle what schools in the public sector had confirmed cases of the highly infectious disease.

Darling Downs Public Health Unit director Dr Penny Hutchinson said there had been "a lot" of notifications for the contagious disease across the region's health network.

While chickenpox is a notifiable disease, the exact number of confirmed cases across the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service was difficult to quantify due to notifications often not being distinguished between it and shingles.

"Most often swabs are related to shingles," Dr Hutchinson said.

"Chickenpox is a highly infectious disease and there is a vaccine (which) has been effective in reducing chickenpox.

"Chickenpox itself can be spread by coughing and sneezing particularly in the early stages but if you come in contact with the liquid in the blisters you can transmit it as well.

"That's what we see with things like shingles.

"It's the same virus but lies dormant in the body."

Dr Hutchinson said shingles could be "very serious" and differed to the physical signs of chickenpox.

A shingles case generally caused a patch of skin to break out in blisters while chickenpox saw the rash and blisters spread to the whole body.

"Symptomatic treatment is what we do so anything to soothe the itch," Dr Hutchinson said.

"If students keep scratching the tops off the blisters it can lead to spreading."

Dr Hutchinson said the disease put pregnant women at risk of foetus developing abnormalities or contracting the disease at birth.

Anyone with concerns should seek medical advice from 13HEALTH or their general practitioner.