What is Varicella?
Varicella (chickenpox) is a very common childhood disease. It is usually mild, but can be serious, especially in young infants and adults. Varicella, a disease is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), a form of the herpes virus, is a highly contagious virus that is spread from person-to-person through the air or by contacting the fluid from the blisters caused by the virus. Chickenpox causes a blistering itching rash (pox), fever, and fatigue. It can lead to more serious illness including severe skin infection, scars, pneumonia, brain damage, and death.
By adulthood, more than 95 percent of Americans have had chickenpox. Chickenpox most commonly occurs in children between the ages of 5 and 9, but in the US, chickenpox is most common in children between the ages of 1 and 4. This difference can be linked to the proportion of children in this age group who are in daycare.
What are the risks from Chickenpox Vaccine?
A vaccine, like any medication, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of chickenpox vaccine causing serious harm or death is very small. Most people who get the chickenpox vaccine do not have any problems with it.
Problems may include:
- Soreness or swelling in the location where the shot was given
- Mild rash, up to one month after vaccination
Other problems such as low blood count, pneumonia, seizures, and severe brain reactions are very rare. Experts are not sure whether these are caused by the chickenpox vaccine or not.
Symptoms of Chicken Pox
Symptoms of chicken pox include that:
- children sometimes have a prodrome of fever, malaise, headache, lack of appetite, and mild abdominal pain for 1 to 2 days
- the rash typically appears first on a child's trunk, scalp, and face and consists of small, very itchy, flat red spots, which then turn into raised fluid filled vesicles, often described as looking like a 'dewdrop' that become umbilicated and cloudy and eventually crust over
- the fever only lasts about 2 to 4 days
- new 'crops' of the rash on the child's trunk and then arms and legs continue for about 4 days
- all of the lesions are crusted over about 6 to 7 days after the illness began
- the crusts then fall off in another 7 days, although it sometimes takes up to 20 days, usually without scarring
Although not as common, children with chicken pox can also develop ulcers in their mouth.
More serious symptoms that might indicate a complication of chicken pox has developed include redness around the base of skin lesions, a cough and difficulty breathing, or any neurological symptoms, such as slurred speech, severe headache, vomiting, seizures, or trouble walking.
- Human (alpha) herpesvirus 3 (V-Z virus), a member of the herpesvirus group, is responsible for the development of varicella.
- Direct person-to-person contact with lesions and/or airborne droplets spreads the V-Z virus. Neonatal varicella is caused by maternal viremia, leading to spread of the virus across the placenta.
Risk factors include the following:
- No prior history of varicella
- Unvaccinated status
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