Chickenpox

Most people catch chickenpox before the age of 15, when it is usually a fairly benign illness. The illness is much more serious in adults, especially in those who were not vaccinated, and it can have serious complications. Because chickenpox is caused by the same virus (varicella virus) that causes shingles, people with shingles can spread chickenpox.

Appearance

The first appearance of the symptoms of chickenpox occurs 10 to 21 days after contact with the varicella virus.

Symptoms

Chickenpox begins with a fever and generalized malaise, both lasting 1 to 2 days, and they are followed by an eruption, initially on the trunk, scalp, and face, and then over the entire body. The eruption takes 3 to 4 days to peak and is made up of characteristic itchy teardrop vesicles (pimples). The vesicles crust over within a few days and occasionally cause permanent scarring, especially if they were scratched. The disease usually lasts for 7 to 14 days.

Transmission

Chickenpox is highly contagious. It is spread through the air or by direct contact with the virus (e.g., a blister, or the liquid or wet crust from the blister) or through contaminated objects.

The individual becomes contagious 1 to 2 days before the eruption appears and stays contagious until the first pimples crust (about 5 days).

One episode of chickenpox usually confers lifelong immunity to the illness, which means that most people do not get sick with it more than once. However, in rare cases, a person can sicken with chickenpox a second time, especially if she was very young at the time of the first episode. Futhermore, since the varicella virus goes dormant in the body after an episode of chickenpox, it can be reactivated later in the form of shingles.

Immunization

A vaccine against chickenpox is part of the regular immunization schedule of certain provinces and territories. For more information on this vaccine, talk to your family doctor or pharmacist.

Remember: Washing your hands frequently significantly reduces the risk of transmitting most contagious diseases.

For more information :

Canadian Paediatric Society

www.cps.ca

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