A vaccine preventable illness

Identification and definition

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the Varicella-zoster virus. It causes an itchy rash that spreads over the body. A two dose vaccine is available for all ages. It is recommended the vaccine is administered between 12 and 15 months.

History of chickenpox

Chickenpox was mostly mistaken for smallpox until the late 19th century. In 1875 it was discovered by a man named Steiner who inoculated volunteers to show that chickenpox was caused by an infectious agent. A live attenuated vaccine was not available in the US for chickenpox until 1995. Before the vaccine was available, 4 million people in the US would get chickenpox per year. Of the 4 million, 10,600 were hospitalized and 100 to 150 would die from chickenpox disease.

Signs and symptoms of chickenpox

It takes 10 to 21 days after infection for a person to develop chickenpox. The most common symptom of chickenpox is an itchy rash which turns into blisters. Other symptoms of chickenpox may begin 1 to 2 days before rash occurs

  • high fever
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • loss of appetite

Transmission of chickenpox

Chickenpox is spread very easily through the air by coughing or sneezing. An infected person can spread the disease 1 to 2 days before they display a rash until their blisters are scabbed over. The virus can also be found in the blisters of an infected person. Therefore it can be transmitted by touching or breathing in the particles from the blisters. Chickenpox can only be spread from human to human it is not transmitted by animals.

Complications of chickenpox

Complications can occur from chickenpox but are rare in otherwise healthy individuals. Persons most at risk are immunocompromised individuals, infants under the age of 1, and people over the age of 15. Complications include:

  • secondary bacterial infections
  • viral pneumonia -more common in children under the age of 1
  • encephalitis- 1.8 per 10,000 cases
  • dehydration
  • sepsis
Hospitalization occurs in 2-3 of every 1000 cases in children. Death occurs in 1 of every 60,000 cases

Control measures for chickenpox

The best way to prevent spread and infection of chickenpox is to be vaccinated.

  • Chickenpox can be 98 percent preventable with a two dose vaccine called varicella vaccine.
  • The vaccine prevents almost all severe cases of chickenpox.
  • In the US we have seen an 88 percent reduction rate in hospitalizations and approximately 90 percent reduction in disease incidence from 1995 to 2005.
  • Recently there has been a reduction in the number of children being vaccinated against chickenpox.
  • A goal has been set for 2020 to increase the amount of vaccinated children.
Although developing countries see more of the disease spread than the US it is not a top priority on their vaccination guidelines. (world health organization)

  • Death from chickenpox is rare in the US and developing countries. There is a chance of developing shingles years later after the varicella-zoster virus has been introduced into the body. Therefore vaccination against this virus should be mandated to prevent both of these diseases