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J Hosp Infect. 1996 Mar;32(3):229-36.

Varicella exposure in a neonatal intensive care unit: emergency management and control measures.

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Department of Paediatrics, Prince of Wales Hospital, Chinese University of Hong Kong.


We describe an exposure of varicella zoster virus in our neonatal intensive-care unit and the emergency procedures instituted to prevent an outbreak. Fifty-seven infants and 129 staff members were exposed but none developed chickenpox. The measures included rapid identification of varicella antibody status in all neonates and those staff members with uncertain history of varicella infection; cohorting of exposed infants according to immune status; and prompt administration of varicella zoster immunoglobulin to susceptible patients. The recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics did not accurately predict the immune status of preterm infants, as only one of the eight susceptible infants would have qualified for immunoglobulin prophylaxis if their guidelines had been followed. Mass screening of all exposed infants using the varicella zoster enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test was the only reliable means of determining the immune status. Of the four risk factors evaluated for the prediction of antibody status: gestational age, postnatal age, birthweight and episodes of blood transfusion, only postnatal age was found to independently predict the immune status of our patients. Because varicella zoster susceptible staff members are difficult to identify on the basis of history, we suggest that prospective screening of staff in high-risk units be undertaken and vaccination with live varicella vaccine be offered to susceptibles.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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