Varicella (chicken pox) outbreak in Tuktoyaktuk

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TUKTOYAKTUK (February 9, 2023) – The Chief Public Health Officer is advising the community of Tuktoyaktuk of an ongoing outbreak of varicella (chicken pox) involving multiple individuals in different households.

This Advisory is in effect due to concerns regarding transmission of chicken pox to community members who may be vulnerable or at higher risk of severe outcomes if exposed.

Chicken pox is highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person through the air or by direct contact with skin lesions.  If you develop chicken pox you are contagious 1-2 days before symptoms start until all lesions are crusted.  This can be up to 10 days or more.

Signs and symptoms of chicken pox may include:

  • Fever, feeling unwell, headache, loss of appetite
  • Lesions (pox) appear first on body and face and then arms and legs
  • Lesions start as small pink or red spots (papules) and fill with fluid (vesicles) and then scab (crust) over
  • Lesions may also develop in the mouth, throat or other mucous membranes, including the eye, rectum and vagina

Chicken pox is usually a mild illness for children and those who have healthy immune systems, however those who are immune compromised, pregnant with no history of vaccination or natural infection, or older may experience severe complications:

  • Development of secondary bacterial skin and soft tissue infections that can cause severe damage to skin and soft tissue (necrotizing fasciitis) and organs such as heart, brain and liver (endocarditis, encephalitis, organ failure)
  • Severe complications that can result in death
  • Those who are susceptible who become infected during pregnancy may also pass the infection onto their baby and this can cause severe complications, including death for the infant

Chicken pox is a vaccine preventable disease.  Getting your chicken pox vaccines can protect you from developing disease if you are exposed.  You can ensure your immunizations are up to date by calling the Tuktoyaktuk Health Center at 1-867-977-2321.

The Chief Public Health Officer is asking residents of Tuktoyaktuk to monitor for signs and symptoms of chicken pox.  If you become ill and develop a rash, please notify your local health center and isolate away from others, particularly susceptible pregnant women, elders, those who are immune compromised and those who are unvaccinated. 

If you are pregnant and not immune, immune compromised or unvaccinated and have been exposed to chicken pox you must immediately call the Tuktoyaktuk Health Center (1-867-977-2321) for advice.  Certain treatments are available to help lessen the severity of the disease if you have been exposed, however they must be given within 4 days of exposure to a case of chicken pox.

Community exposures may have occurred on these dates:

  • January 22, 2023: Tuktoyaktuk community arena during a hockey game;
  • February 2, 2023: Canadian North flight 5T 244 Yellowknife -Inuvik.

If you have been exposed, please monitor for signs and symptoms for the next 21 days and contact the health center if symptoms develop.  If you have been exposed and live in a community other than Tuktoyaktuk, please monitor for symptoms and notify your local public health unit if you develop symptoms.  Please isolate away from others if you develop a rash.

For those with general questions related to chicken pox but not directly exposed, please call 811 for more information.

The Chief Public Health Officer, NTHSSA and Tuktoyaktuk Health Center will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on a regular basis until the Advisory has been lifted.


For more information contact:

Umesh Sutendra
Health and Social Services