Chicken Pox Overview
Chicken Pox is called varicella in medical terms, a highly contagious viral infection, and is characterized by itchy red bumps with mild fever, tiredness, and headaches.
Myth: There is a misconception that it is Mata or Devi in India and tradition not to go out of home for three weeks or visit a doctor and use medicines.
What causes chickenpox? Chickenpox caused by the Varicella zoster virus and occurs in most cases through contact with an infected person. The disease remains contagious from one to two days before blisters appear till all blisters have crusted over. The virus can spread through saliva, coughing, sneezing, and contact with fluid from the blisters
What are the symptoms & signs of Chickenpox? The earliest symptom is mild fever associated with loss of appetite, headache, and weakness. This is followed by the itchy skin bumps or blister, usually starts on the chest, back, and face and spreads to the rest of the body; and oral involvement a day before skin rash. Symptoms usually last for five to seven days. It often affects children but can occur at any age.
The rash begins as small red dots on the face or scalp or upper arms or chest; progressing over 10–12 hours to small bumps or blisters and or pustules; followed by umbilication and the formation of scabs. The crusty scabbed areas eventually fall off. It takes seven to 14 days to disappear completely.
Who is at risk of developing and spreading of Chickenpox? Usually, once they get infected with the virus or vaccinated; immunity lasts for life. Immunity passed from mother to newborn lasts for three months from birth. Anyone who has not been exposed may contract the virus.
Chickenpox is an airborne disease that spreads easily through the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. It may also spread through contact with the blisters. This disease can be very contagious. Hence the disease is more common or spreads in members of the family, friends, schoolmates either by using airborne particles or using their products or touching the infected areas. It remains contagious from 5 to 7 days of symptomatic phase; till the skin sores get crusted.
What are the possible complications of chickenpox?
The complications are more common in infants, older adults, pregnant women (especially third trimester), and immune-compromised patients such as cancer, AIDS, and so on.
The most common complication is a bacterial infection and posts heal sores leading to scarring.
Moreover, during serious complications, the disease can affect the lungs or central nervous system causing shortness of breath due to pneumonia or dizziness, headache, seizure, or tremors due to the cerebellar portion of the brain.
The most common late complication of chickenpox is herpes zoster.
Non-immune pregnant women and those with a suppressed immune system are at highest risk of serious complications. During pregnancy, the dangers to the fetus with varicella are greater in the first six months and lead to fetal varicella syndrome
How is chickenpox treated?
Most of the time symptomatic treatment is advised; usually in children where the severity of the disease is less. Parents are asked to keep children out of school and daycare to prevent the spread of the virus. Infected adults will also need to stay home.
Symptomatic treatment such as antihistamine medication or topical ointment and antipyretics are usually given. Advise to have lukewarm baths, wear soft or cotton clothes, and consume the diet which gets easy digest such as rice.
The antiviral drug is advised in high risk or older adults to slow down viral activity and to allow your body’s immune system to heal faster.
How can chickenpox be prevented?
The spread of chickenpox can be prevented by isolating affected individuals.
Use of disinfectants such as sodium hypochlorite as the virus is susceptible and sensitive to desiccation, heat, and detergents.
The vaccine prevents chickenpox in 98% of people who receive the two recommended doses; first between 12 and 15 months of age and the booster between 4 and 6 years of age.
As chickenpox tends to be more severe in older adults; and who haven’t been vaccinated or exposed may receive catch-up doses of the vaccine.