Chicken Pox

An itchy rash of spots that look like blisters can appear all over the body and be accompanied by flu-like symptoms.

Symptoms

Chickenpox often starts with a fever, headache, sore throat, or stomachache.

Most people develop antibodies to the chicken pox virus, referred to as varicella. The antibodies give you protection against the chicken pox virus. Most people get chicken pox from exposure to other people with chicken pox -spread through droplets- sneezing, coughing, and breathing.

People may also catch chicken pox from direct exposure to a person with an active shingles rash if they have not been immunized by vaccination or a previous bout of chicken pox. In this case, transmission occurs during the active phase when blisters have erupted, but not formed dry crusts. A person with the shingles rash cannot transmit the virus by breathing or coughing.

Duration

Chickenpox is usually mild and lasts 5 to 10 days.

The rash begins as multiple small red bumps that look like pimples or insect bites, usually less than a quarter of an inch wide. They appear in crops over 2 to 4 days and develop into thin-walled blisters filled with fluid. The blister walls break, leaving open sores, which finally crust over to become dry, brown scabs. The rash is very itchy, and cool baths or calamine lotion may help to manage the itching.

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Statistics

About 75-90 percent of chicken pox cases occur in children under the age of 10. Before the chicken pox vaccine was introduced in 1995, there were about 4 million cases of chicken pox annually. Since the introduction of the vaccine, the incidence of chicken pox and hospitalizations for complications have declined about 90 percent.

For children, roughly 9 out of 10 children vaccinated with a single dose of the chicken pox vaccine will develop immunity against chicken pox. A two dose schedule is actually recommended for all, as it produces a better immune response.

Chickenpox with purpura is a grave clinical condition that has a mortality rate of greater than 70%.

Treatment Complications

Varicella treatment mainly consists of easing the symptoms as there is no actual cure of the condition

If complications do develop, your doctor will determine the appropriate treatment. Treatment for skin infections and pneumonia may be with antibiotics. Treatment for encephalitis is usually with antiviral drugs. Hospitalization may be necessary.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend getting the chickenpox vaccine after exposure to the virus. This can prevent the disease or lessen its severity.

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