What is Chickenpox?
Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella Zoster virus that infects the respiratory track.
Who is at Risk on Chickenpox?
Although considered a childhood disease, everyone is susceptible to chickenpox. However, it can have a more serious impact for certain people.
- Adults and Adolescents over 15 years
- Pregnant women
- Individuals with weakened immune system
What are the Symptoms of Chickenpox?
Initial symptoms include;
- Mild to severe fever
- Cough and sore throat
- Loss of Appetite
Additional symptoms include;
- Itchy rash of red swollen spots that turn into blisters
- A dry crust which forms over the broken blisters as they heal
It takes about 14 to 16 days from the time of the infection for the symptoms to start appearing.
How do you Get Chickenpox?
The disease is spread
- When an infected person coughs or sneezes
- Through close contact with open blisters
- From mother to an unborn child via the placenta
People are most infectious 1-2 days after the rash appears. 9 out of 10 people who are in contact with an infected person will end up getting the disease.
What is the Impact of Chickenpox?
In Europe, 592,681 cases were reported in 2010. This is equivalent to 1 case every minute.
It is generally a mild illness, leaving sufferers itchy, irritable and upset. However, in some instances it can be associated with serious complications
- Bacterial super infection and severe scarring
- Pneumonia and bronchitis
- Ear infection
- Neurological disorders
As a result, chickenpox can be fatal in high risk groups such as newborn babies and people with weakened immune systems. It also imposes a significant economic and social burden in terms of hospitalizations, doctor’s visits, medication, absence from work and distress for the child and family.
How can you protect against Chickenpox?
Vaccination helps protect against chickenpox. Vaccination programmes were estimated to have resulted in a reduction in cases up to 89%.
Should you develop the disease, you are likely to be be immune to future chickenpox infections.
If you or someone in your household is infected, prevent the spread of the disease by
- Keeping the infected person away from nursery, school or work
- Avoiding contact with ‘at risk’ groups
- Wiping surfaces with a sterilizing solution
- Regularly washing infected clothes or bedding