Parents scout daycares on pox hunt

By Cherie Taylor

Some Rotorua parents are taking their pre-school children to daycare in a bid to contract chicken pox.

But that's not wise, says the Bay of Plenty Medical Officer of Health.

Several Rotorua early childcare centres contacted by the Rotorua Daily Post said they had dealt with a number of cases of the childhood illness in recent weeks.

One centre said all 30 children attending their facility had contracted the illness at some stage but children had immediately been sent home. On several occasions, the centre had enquiries from parents whose children were not registered to attend the daycare, asking if their toddler could play with infected children in the hope of them contracting chicken pox.

The centre's manager didn't wish to be identified or have the centre named. She said they were bothered by the requests.

"It's their choice. I think, they just want to get it over and done with while their kids are little," she said.

Another early childhood centre said about 20 children had gone down with chicken pox in recent weeks but they had noticed a few of the parents were also commenting they had contracted the illness.

"The biggest thing is we have noticed, is the amount of adults that are getting it," the centre's manager said.

Bay of Plenty chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Phil Shoemack said chicken pox wasn't a notifiable disease but it was one infection just about every child would contract.

"It's an endemic infection ..."

However, deliberately exposing children to the illness wasn't recommended, Dr Shoemack said.

"It's not the wisest thing to do ... travelling to get an illness is an unusual approach to life."

But once one child contracts it, others will follow suit. There may be no signs a child is infected until after the weeping spots appear.

"It's impossible to quell such an outbreak. [Children] are contagious the last few days before the spots appear."

Dr Shoemack said he would be surprised if more than a few adults in one area got chicken pox as it was predominantly a "childhood" illness.

Those most at risk were children with low immunity like those having chemotherapy treatment, he said.

Children are contagious until the spots have crusted over.

Chicken pox is a highly contagious disease which mainly affects children.

It causes an itchy red rash usually starting on the face or head extending down the body. The red spots become fluid filled weeping blisters.

First signs of the disease can be cold-like symptoms, headaches and a fever which is soon followed by the spotty pimply rash and sores.

Chicken pox can spread by sneezing, coughing or contact with weeping blisters. Symptoms may not appear until two to three weeks after contact with an infected person.

About 90 per cent of children who experience the virus develop an immunity to it.

In rare cases there can be serious complication like pneumonia, inflammation of the joints, kidneys and liver or nervous system problems.

If you are concerned about someone with chicken pox, call Healthline on (freephone) 0800 611 116 or contact your doctor.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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