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chicken pox

What does varicella-zoster virus cause ?

The primary manifestation of varicella zoster virus is varicella, commonly known as chickenpox, which is viral disease caused when an individual is first exposed to the virus .It presents a fever with a characteristic vesiculopapular (blistered), highly pruritic (itchy) rash and is contagious. Infection of the lesions can result in permanent scarring.
The virus that remains latent in the body and can later be reactivated and cause herpes zoster (shingles).

What is the difference between varicella and herpes zoster ?

During varicella infection (chickenpox), the sensory nerve cells become infected with viral particles, an association that persists throughout the individual's life. The viral particles then stay dormant in the sensory nerve cells. The virus can be reactivated later in life because the efficiency in the immune system declines with age. Hence herpes zoster (shingles) is more common in older people.

The main physical difference between the two infections is the rash and pain associated with it. In shingles, the skin blisters form in red, inflamed groups along a nerve or group of nerves, and are extremely painful. In chickenpox, the rash is much more diffused, spreading over the body and the face.

How is varicella transmitted ?

The varicella virus is specially adapted to attack the mucous tissues of the upper respiratory tract. The virus spreads easily from person to person by airborne droplets, generally from the mucous secretions of the respiratory tract during coughing or sneezing. It also spreads by direct contact with varicella or herpes zoster lesions.

Who catches varicella ?

Everybody who has never had chickenpox before. These can be children, adolescents or adults.

What are the clinical signs of chickenpox ?

The characteristic symptom is an irritating itchy rash which starts on the trunk and gradually spreads over the face, where it can involve the scalp, mouth and ears, and also the upper arms and legs. Most children have 250-500 lesions, which form a crust after four to five days and remain for one to two weeks. Children may be quite distressed by the itching and can develop fever, chills, nausea and vomiting.

Does chickenpox cause complications in children ?

Although for many children vermicelli does not produce major health problems, complications can develop in some cases, especially pneumonia, which may be fatal. Bacterial super infection of the skin, which may cause unsightly scarring, particularly on the face, may cause cosmetic concerns later in life, especially during adolescence.

What happens if an adolescent or adult contracts varicella ?

Varicella is more serious in adolescents and adults than in children. The fever is higher and continues for a longer period and the rash is much more severe. There is also a greater likelihood of complications such as pneumonia.

Why is chickenpox vaccine important to you and your family ?

There are three reasons. First, the full impact of childhood varicella on patients and on there families is often not appreciated. Physically chickenpox is very uncomfortable and may have long-term disfiguring consequences or serious (even fatal) consequences.

Secondly varicella can cause financial problems because of lost earnings when working parents have to stay at home to look after there children, or because older patients need to stay away from work. Sometimes, children get infected with the chickenpox virus during crucial times like examinations or planned holidays. Medical costs may also be high, especially if complications set in and the sufferer- whether child, adolescent or adult needs hospitalization.

However, now there is a good news regarding prevention of chickenpox. For the first time, a vaccine has been developed which can prevent the burden of disease and provide long-lasting immunity from varicella in healthy children, adolescents and adults.

An effective and long-term means of prevention against chickenpox is through vaccination. Protection against chickenpox may be achieved using a single-dose subcutaneous injection of a live-attenuated varicella vaccine.

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