Varicella

Chickenpox: A Vaccine Preventable Disease

Identification and Definition

Varicella or Chickenpox is an infectious disease causing a mild fever and a rash of itchy inflamed blisters. it is caused by the herpes zoster virus and it mainly affects children, who are afterward usually immune.

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History of Varicella

Varicella is an acute infectious disease that is caused by Varicella Zoster Virus. This reccurrent infection has been recognized for a long period of time, even back in ancient times. Chickenpox was not distinguished from smallpox until the end of the 19th century. In 1875, Steiner showed that chickenpox was actually caused by an infectious agent by inoculating volunteers with the vesicular fludid from a patient that had acute varicella. Clinical observations of the relationship between varicella and herpes zoster were made in the year 1888 by Con Bokay, when children without evidence of varicella immunity acquired varicella after contact with herpes zoster. Varicella Zoster Virus was isolated from Vesicular fluid of both chickenpox and zoster lesions in cell culture by Thomas Weller in the year of 1954. Other studies of the virus that had taken place in laboratories concluded that the development of a live attenuated varicella vaccine happened in Japan in the 1970's. The vaccine was licensed for use in the States in March of 1995. The first vaccine that reduced the risk of herpes zoster was licensed in May of 2006.

Transmission of Varicella

Varicella (chickenpox) is caused by the Varicella Zoster Virus. The virus can spread in the air when a person who is infected either coughs or sneezes. Chickenpox can also be spread through touching or breathing in the virus' particles that come from the infected blisters. Another way that Varicella can be transmitted is from people with shingles. The virus Varicella Zoster can also cause shingles.

Signs/Symptoms

The Varicella infection lasts between 5-10 days. The rash is the most evident sign that someone has developed chickenpox but they may have other signs/symptoms a few days prior to the rash:


-Fever

-Headache

-Loss of appetite

-Fatigue

-General feeling of sickness

Complications

Varicella is normally a mild disease/infection. However, some complications can occur in people who are at a higher risk like newborns, infants, adults and pregnant women. Some of the complications include:


-Bacteria infections of the skin, soft tissues, bones, joints or the bloodstream

-Pneumonia

-Inflammation of the brain

-Toxic shock syndrome

-Reye's syndrome (for people who are taking aspirin when they have chickenpox)

Current and Recommended Control Measures

The best way to prevent and control the Varicella Virus is to get the vaccination but if you do end up getting the virus there are things you can do to control it. If you are experiencing a fever you can take acetaminophen to manage it. To manage the itching the use of calamine lotion and oatmeal baths should be able to relieve the itching.


You should contact your doctor if you have chicken pox and you are:

-pregnant

-difficulty breathing

-fever for more than 4 days

-severe illness

-frequent vomiting