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  • Chickenpox Q and A

  • What is chickenpox?

    Chickenpox is an infectious disease that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, a member of the herpes virus family. It is fairly common, highly contagious and causes a red, itchy, blister-like rash. Chickenpox generally affects individuals under the age of 15, but can affect persons of any age.

    How is it transmitted?

    Chickenpox is spread through direct contact with an infected person or indirectly through an infected person's cough or sneeze.

    How contagious is chickenpox?

    If exposed, a person who has not already had the disease or a vaccine has an eighty percent chance or higher of contracting the virus. It takes roughly two to three weeks for an infected person to develop symptoms.

    A person with chickenpox is contagious for up to two days before they begin to demonstrate symptoms or a rash, and they continue to be contagious until all blisters on the body have formed scabs.

    What are the symptoms?

    The general symptoms of chickenpox can include fever, fatigue, headache, dehydration, itchiness and a blister-like rash that begins on the face and trunk of the body. The rash usually spreads to the rest of the body.

    Can chickenpox have serious complications?

    Sometimes. Infants, adolescents, pregnant women, adults and people with weak immune systems are more likely than children to experience complications.

    Chickenpox in children is usually not serious, but they can experience complications as well. Roughly one in ten children develop complications from chickenpox that are serious enough to warrant a visit to the doctor.

    Serious complications can include bacterial infections, bleeding problems, serious dehydration, pneumonia, encephalitis, or the aggravation of asthma. However, keep in mind, chickenpox is generally a mild illness.

    How long does chickenpox last?

    Chikenpox usually lasts about seven to ten days in children. Adult duration may be longer.

    How is chickenpox treated?

    Chickenpox generally does not require medical attention, just rest and patience. Chickenpox is a viral infection. Therefore, antibiotics are ineffective. Antibiotics are only useful if an individual develops an infection from the blisters caused by the virus.

    How can you ease the discomfort of chickenpox at home?

    Never give a child with chickenpox asprin! Its use has been connected with a serious disease that can cause liver failure.

    Oatmeal baths and calamine lotion may relieve the discomfort of itching and acetaminophen, like Tylenol, can help relieve pain.

    Can a person have chickenpox more than once?

    It is very rare to contract chickenpox more than once. However, the virus can reappear later in life in the form of shingles in about 10 to 20 percent of cases.

    Can chickenpox be prevented ?

    Yes. Call your health care provider and get a vaccine. It is never possible to tell who may experience a serious case of chickenpox. It is better to be safe.

    Both adults and children can receive the vaccine. The vaccine is about 70 to 80 percent effective against preventing mild infection and more than 95 percent effective against serious illness.