Chicken pox is a disease that is caused by a primary infection from the varicella-zoster virus (VZW). It is extremely contagious, and can be very dangerous to older individuals and babies, or anyone with a compromised immune system.
The disease is characterized by a rash and blister-like pustules, itching, fever, tiredness, aching muscles, nausea, vomiting and weakness. The rash itself is primarily present on the body and head, though evidence of the illness can present itself elsewhere. Those with Chicken Pox often experience a loss of appetite and headaches. The rash will present itself on the face and chest first, and will then spread to the shoulders and back. It is possible to get pustules in the eyelids, nose, mouth, ears and genitalia.
Children may be absent for up to a week from school and adults should stay home from work until their physician has authorized them to go back. The disease is more severe in adult males and children. People with compromised immune systems and pregnant women are at the highest risk of experiencing complications.
Is Chicken Pox Contagious?
A person is contagious one or two days before the rash appears, which can make the disease difficult to control. Chicken pox is very communicable and is easily spread from the carrier to an unimmunized individual. The disease can be transmitted by breathing in the airborne virus or from contact with pox pustules. It takes at least a week for Chicken Pox to run its course. If you have contracted varicella, you are contagious until the pustules have crusted over and must avoid others in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
You can also contract varicella by coming into contact with a person who is in the midst of a shingles outbreak. The varicella virus causes shingles. One to two days before experiencing an outbreak of Chicken Pox, you are able to spread the virus. The incubation period for varicella is 10-21 days after exposure.
If you have never had Chicken Pox, you should become vaccinated. If you are pregnant or if you have a weak immune system, it is especially important to become vaccinated. There is no treatment for varicella; only comfort measures. Some treatments are available for symptom relief while the body’s immune system rids itself of the virus. Patients are strongly encouraged to stay home if they have contracted the disease.
If you are infected with varicella, it is imperative to be very vigilant with personal hygiene. Many patients have experienced secondary infections in pustules due to scratching and opening wounds to bacteria. If you have varicella, wash often with warm soap and water and do not scratch your pustules.
After having Chicken Pox, most people are immune to the disease for life. However, it is possible to contract varicella more than once. The most effective way to prevent contracting Chicken Pox is to get immunized. The vaccine is safe and very effective. However, if you are inoculated and do contract Chicken Pox, it is most commonly a very mild case. The varicella vaccine prevents the most extreme cases of the disease.
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If you plan on traveling outside of the United States and have not been immunized against varicella, it is important to do so here in New York City. Travelers should be vaccinated at least 4 weeks before leaving the United States in order for the vaccine to take full effect. Even if you do not have this much time until your departure date, it is still strongly encouraged to get your vaccine. Some protection is better than none. Contact us today to make an appointment.