VICTORIA -- Parents at Macaulay Elementary School in Esquimalt are being warned of a case of chickenpox (varicella) reported at the school.

In a letter sent to parents from the school, families were being advised to watch for symptoms of the illness and to ensure that their children are up to date on their vaccinations.

The chickenpox disease is known for symptoms like rashes and red pimple-like spots which develop into blisters. According to Island Health, a person usually develops chickenpox two to three weeks after coming into contact with someone who has it. 

The illness is spread through coughing, sneezing, contact with the fluid from chickenpox blisters or contact with saliva from an infected person.

According to Island Health, the full range of symptoms for chickenpox includes:

  • Cold-like symptoms (aches, tiredness, headache, loss of appetite)
  • Fever
  • Very itchy rash that usually first appears on the body, face and scalp; it then spreads to limbs
  • Red pimple-like spots which turn into clear blisters that become cloudy, break open and crust over
  • Spots which continue to appear for 1-5 days

Island Health is warning families that chickenpox can lead to serious medical complications, like pneumonia, infection of the lungs, encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. In some cases, it can lead to skin infections like Group A Streptococcus, or “flesh eating disease”, which can be life-threatening.

If a child has chickenpox, parents are being told to inform the school, keep the student at home and return to classes once their child is feeling well, even if a rash is still present.

Island Health is advising the community that pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems and newborn infants should avoid close contact with anyone who has chickenpox. If any of these people do come in contact with the illness, it is recommended that they speak with a doctor. 

To help protect against the disease, Island Health is reminding families that a vaccine is available for chickenpox. Any child who has never had chickenpox, or who had the illness before their first birthday, or who has only received one dose of the vaccine is advised to seek immunization.