Despite tall claims by Madhya Pradesh health officials about successfully vaccinating children against chickenpox in Chhatarapur district, doctors on Friday diagnosed four children with the contagious disease including three who had been ‘vaccinated’.
The detection has prompted health experts to raise alarm about the possibility of the viral strain — which causes chickenpox — of having developed resistance to the vaccine.
"Over a dozen children reported sick on Thursday with chickenpox-like symptoms — fever and boils on their body — in Maharajganj area of the district," chief medical and health officer (CMHO) Chhatarapur Dr KK Chaturvedi told HT. "A medical team has confirmed chickenpox in four of the children."
On being asked whether the children diagnosed with the contagious disease had been vaccinated against chickenpox, Dr Chaturvedi confirmed that three of the children had been vaccinated while the fourth stricken child was just eight months old.
"We give chickenpox vaccine when the infant is over nine months old. But in case of three other children, we are ascertaining the reasons," said the CHMO.
District health authorities have sought the help of World Health Organisation (WHO) in identifying the viral strain.
"We have called World Health Organisation (WHO) consultant from Bhopal, who is investigating the strain of the chickenpox virus that is affecting the children here," said Dr Chaturvedi.
Blood samples are generally taken for testing in case of chickenpox. But fear of the possibility of the strain developing resistance to the vaccine has prompted district authorities to send throat swab for testing.
"For the first time throat swabs are being taken, which will be sent to the virology lab at Pune for identifying the strain," said Dr Chaturvedi.
"The WHO doctor is studying whether the strain has developed any resistance to the vaccine."
What is chickenpox?
Chickenpox, a highly contagious airborne disease is caused by primary infection with varicella zoster virus (VZV) and starts with vesicular skin rashes, which then develop into itchy, raw pockmarks.
These mostly heal without scarring. It is rarely fatal, although it is generally more severe in adult men than in women or children.
It can be prevented by isolating patients and maintaining proper hygiene. Vaccination plays the key role in its prevention. The vaccination can be given from the age 9 months onwards.
Between 1-12 years, only one dose is required; above this age two doses are given at an interval of 6-10 weeks.