Nova Scotia

Chickenpox outbreak hits Cape Breton University

There is an outbreak of chickenpox in the Sydney, N.S., area.

Cape Breton University reported the outbreak on Feb. 22

The Nova Scotia Public Health department was notified by Cape Breton University of a chickenpox outbreak (not pictured) in the Sydney, N.S., area on Feb. 22. (9Gawin/Shutterstock)

There is an outbreak of chickenpox in Cape Breton.

Nova Scotia's Public Health department was notified by Cape Breton University of the outbreak in the Sydney area on Feb. 22.

Dr. Daniela Kempkens, the medical officer of health for the Nova Scotia Health Authority's eastern zone, said she is not sure where the outbreak originated.

"It's hard to say because sometimes we get the reports a little bit delayed," she said.

"Also, chickenpox is not a disease that normally comes to public health attention. This was just brought to our attention, as our colleagues at Cape Breton University reached out to us and we were happy to provide them with some support."

There are fewer than 20 cases, with the majority being adults who either "attend or work" at CBU. Some of the cases are children.

Chickenpox is spread very easily, both by direct contact and through the air.

People who "attend or work" at Cape Breton University have been caught up in the outbreak. (Cape Breton University)

Kempkens said it is difficult to know whether the virus continues to spread, because it can take two to three weeks for an infected person to show symptoms. 

"So we still can't really say how many more cases we'll be seeing because we haven't been three weeks after our last case," she said.

Kempkens said "it's not looking like we're still heading for the spike of the outbreak," but stressed she can't be absolutely sure.

Most people immune

Most people are immune to the disease because they have been vaccinated or have had a previous infection and are protected.

People born in Canada after 1996 are eligible for the vaccine.

Symptoms include aches and fevers, followed by an itchy rash after one to two days.

Cape Breton University would not comment on the outbreak.

It did, however, send a memo to students advising those who have symptoms to see their doctor or go to the Max Bell Health Centre.

About the Author

Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith has been reporting news in Cape Breton since 1981. You can follow her on Twitter @leblancsmith and reach her at yvonne.leblanc-smith@cbc.ca

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