UPDATED at 9:00 a.m. EDT on 8-4-2022 to correct that it is an outbreak of chickenpox not smallpox in the camp. RFA apologizes for the error which was due to a mistranslation.
Chickenpox is spreading quickly across the population of an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Myanmar’s Kayah state.
Aid workers say more than 20 children have caught the highly infectious disease in the camp.
Karenni Human Rights Group (KNHRG) spokesman Ko Ba Nyar, said Wednesday the children have been sick and feverish since late July.
“It happened in the west side [of Demoso Township],” he said. “It is the rainy season and drinking water is difficult to access, especially clean water. The children might possibly have been infected because they are living together.”
The children who have been infected with chickenpox are not in a serious condition, Ko Ba Nyar told RFA. He said the camp is being monitored so the disease will not spread.
A health care worker at the camp, who did not wish to be named, said the infection broke out because there is not enough clean water and the children don’t practice good personal hygiene.
“It’s cramped living here and the parents of the children don’t have much health awareness,” the health worker said. “It starts with people getting sick and vomiting, then the rash comes out.”
“Right now, we are treating the infected children with medicine in the camp.”
The rash appeared on the faces, abdomens and backs of the infected children, according to people who are assisting with the medical treatment.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus spreads mainly through close contact with people with chickenpox to those who have never had the disease or never been vaccinated against it. If one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.
Chickenpox can be serious, especially in babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and people with a weakened immune system, the CDC says.
More than 1,400 displaced people from 11 villages in Demoso township are sheltering in the IDP camp.
People displaced by fighting have difficulty accessing government hospitals due to the ongoing conflict between the Myanmar junta and People’s Defense Forces. Health facilities in the IDP camp are inadequate to cope with the chickenpox outbreak, aid workers say.
Demoso township was the first place to take up arms against the junta forces following the coup on Feb. 1, 2021.
Since then more than half of Kayah State’s population, some 200,000 people, have fled their homes due to the fighting.
Adds background and makes other edits.