Health Ministry In Guyana Confirms Chickenpox Outbreak In Prison

(CMC) – Health authorities in Guyana say they are working with the Prisons Service to address an outbreak of chickenpox at the Lusignan Prison, in the County of East Demerara and miles from the capital, Georgetown.

Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV).

It can cause an itchy, blister-like rash.

The rash appears first on the chest, back, and face, and then spreads over the entire body.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health denied reports that the ministry and the medical team that work with Prisons Health have not taken adequate actions to combat the chickenpox outbreak in the Lusignan Prison.

“The MOH assures the prisoners, staff members and their family members that all precautions and all necessary actions are being taken to ensure no further spread of chickenpox occurs at the Lusignan prisons.

“The chickenpox outbreak that has affected 53 prisoners likely was started by either a prisoner or staff member or a visitor. The medical and surveillance teams are presently conducting contact tracing to identify the source of the infection,” the statement said.

It said from the earliest complaints by prisoners about unusual itching, screenings were conducted by the medical team assigned to the Lusignan Prison.

“Once the first cases were diagnosed with chickenpox, care was taken to separate the affected prisoners from the prisoners with no symptoms. Those who were diagnosed with chickenpox were treated with medicines. Prisoners and staff were vaccinated and various measures of sanitisation, sterilisation and other preventive measures were also implemented.”

The health ministry said that the medical team will continue to monitor the situation and ensure that the outbreak is halted.

“At the moment, the outbreak appears to be under control.  Measures have been taken also to evaluate staff who might have been exposed. Staff members were also offered vaccination.”

The Ministry said that as confirmed in a statement by the Prisons Service, 25 active cases of chickenpox and 28 recovering cases are being treated for chickenpox at the Lusignan Prison.

It said that given the outbreak of chickenpox at the Lusignan Prison, the medical teams are conducting surveillance and screening in other prisons.

Advisories have been sent to officers-in-charge of other prisons to be alert to possible outbreaks.

“Outbreaks of chickenpox in prisons settings are not rare and have been commonplace in detention centres across the world. Varicella-Zoster virus is one of the most contagious infections among unvaccinated and non-immune populations.

“Most adults are immunised through childhood exposure to Varicella-Zoster. But for those adults who have not been immunised either through vaccination or through previous infections or exposure, outbreaks in a detention or prison setting is commonplace,” the ministry said in the statement.

It said for this reason the Prisons Service and the medical team are constantly monitoring for signs of outbreaks.

“It is unfortunate that a major political party can be reckless in creating panic by giving the impression that the outbreak of chickenpox is out of control at the Lusignan Prison,” the statement said, adding that “furthermore, it is insulting to the prison officers and the medical team that the political party would denigrate the strenuous efforts by the relevant staff to stem the spread of an infectious disease in the prisons.”