Chickenpox is an infectious disease that doesn’t occur often. It is a rare disease that commonly affects children, although some adults are not exempted from it.
This disease is caused by a virus known as the Varicella-Zoster virus. This disease often affects children who haven’t been immunized or hasn’t had the disease before.
One major feature of this disease is the appearance of distortions that are visible on the skin. These distortions are characterized by red blisters, which are often filled with fluid and can be very itchy.
This disease, if not treated in time, is often deadly as it can lead to some other complications.
What Causes Chickenpox?
The common cause if not the only known cause of chickenpox is the Varicella-Zoster virus, this virus can easily be passed from one infected person to an uninfected person through contact.
This means that if an uninfected person comes in touch with the fluid-filled blisters of an infected person or generally the body of the infected person, then he or she will most likely become infected as well.
Asides personal contact with an infected person, you can also become infected with chickenpox when an infected person sneezes or coughs beside you, and you inhale the air droplets.
This will provide a passageway for the virus to get into your body and start replicating and as such, causing you to have the chickenpox infection.
Symptoms of Chickenpox
Chickenpox is often characterized by red blisters, which often appear all over the body. This skin distortions usually occurs after about 10-21days after the initial exposure.
The blisters occur for about 5-10 days. Asides the blisters, there are some other symptoms that may occur 1 or 2 days before the appearance of the blisters.
These symptoms include;
- Loss of appetite
- Fever, which mostly appears with a rise in body temperature.
- Severe headaches
- General body unease(also known as malaise) as well as fatigue.
After these four symptoms are experienced, the rash that is commonly associated with chickenpox appears. Once these occurs, the person will experience three phases:
1. The papule stage
This is the stage where the person will experience raised pinkish or reddish bumps. These bulbs are known as Papules. These Papules are seen to break out over the next few days. Once the papule break out, the following stage sets in
2. The Vesicle stage
The Vesicle stage occurs when the patient begins to experience the presence of small fluid sacs, also known as blisters all over the body. These cysts are seen to form within a day, and after that, they break out and begin to leak, leading to the third stage.
3. The Crust stage
This is the stage that occurs when crusts and scab start to form in place of the blisters, thereby covering the blisters.
This stage, therefore, causes the blisters to dry off. Once the crust and scab cover the blister, the healing stage begins. However, it takes a more extended period for the coatings to disappear from the body finally.
In some cases, a person can experience all of these three stages at the same time. Once the person begins to experience such, there is a tendency for new blisters to start to form as soon as the old ones are covered by crust. This, therefore, causes the operative period of the disease to be extended.
Some people are carriers of the virus and don’t even know they have it until they are eventually infected with it.
One important point to note is that you may not yet have a full breakout of chickenpox; however, there is a tendency for you to spread the virus as a carrier to other people 48hours before you eventually experience the characteristic symptoms of the disease.
It is also important to note that the patient is still considered to be infectious once the blisters are not dried. However, when the blisters become dried or covered with a crust, then the patient is no longer contagious and can be allowed to have personal contact with his or her loved ones.
Generally, in all healthy children who have received vaccination against chickenpox, the infection is always mild.
In children or adults who have severe cases, the rash can cover the entire body and therefore cause the formation of lesions in some parts of the body such as the throat, the eyes, as well some internal places such as the mucous lining of the urethra, the vagina or the anus.
What are the risk factors associated with chickenpox?
Lack of childhood immunization or vaccinations: If, as a child, you didn’t receive the vaccine against chickenpox or as a parent, you refuse to take your child for immunization, then you or your child are at a high risk of contracting the viral infection resulting in chicken pox.
Research has shown that people who work around child or daycare settings or generally the school environments who haven’t had the vaccine as a child are more exposed than other individuals.
Most people who have had the vaccination against the Varicella-Zoster virus are seen to be immune to the disease. However, not all people who have been vaccinated are immune.
Some people who have been vaccinated also get the infection; however, when they do, the symptoms, as well as the effects, are often milder and less pronounced than in people who haven’t been vaccinated.
Research has also seen that unlike measles where when you get the infection once, you will never get it again, it is possible for one who has had a bout of chickenpox before to have the virus again, however, the cases reported have been very few.
Some individuals have also been noted to be under a higher risk of contracting this infection, and they include:
- Newborns and infants who have not gotten the vaccination against chickenpox and whose mother has never received the vaccine against chickenpox.
- Some adolescents and adults who haven’t gotten the vaccine
- Pregnant women who have never had the chickenpox infection before.
- People who smoke regularly and, as such, reducing the strength of their immune system.
- Individuals who already have a weakened immune system as a result of some diseases such as HIV and cancer.
- Individuals who already have their immune system compromised as a result of a particular type of treatment example, chemotherapy.
- Individuals who are on some specific kind of drugs such as steroid drugs which are taken for some medical conditions like asthma.
Does chickenpox have any effect on pregnancy?
Chickenpox has been seen to affect adults, and pregnant women are not exempted. Pregnant women who are in the early stages of their pregnancy but have been infected with chickenpox has been seen to give birth to babies with low weight problems(in mild cases) and limb deformities(extreme cases).
However, when a woman develops a chickenpox infection during the week or some days before her delivery, then this chickenpox infection developed can result in some serious complications which can quickly result in life-threatening conditions.
It is therefore advisable for a woman who is pregnant to go for antenatal and tell her doctor if she has received vaccination and the kind she has received.
What are the complications associated with chickenpox?
Generally, chickenpox is a mild infection and is not supposed to lead to any complications. However, lack of treatment or insufficient treatment can cause the disease to become severe and sometimes life-threatening.
Complications that can arise as a result of chickenpox include:
- Sepsis: This complication is often caused as a result of the accumulation of bacteria entering into the bloodstream and as a result leading to sepsis. Once there is an accumulation of bacteria within the blood, it will cause sepsis in different organs, especially the skin, soft tissues, bones, and so on.
- Chest infections such as pneumonia
- Encephalitis is often as a result of inflammation of the brain.
- Severe toxic shock syndrome
- Reyes syndrome
Can chickenpox cause shingles?
Chickenpox has been seen to be the cause of a lot of other diseases, and one of such is known as shingles. Even after you have been cured of the disease and the skin infection has been cleared, there is a tendency for the virus known as Varicella- Zoster virus to still be found within the nerve cells.
It is entirely possible for the virus to resurface many years later, causing a disease known as shingles. Shingles are often characterized by a cluster of painful blisters that mostly have a short life span.
Generally, this virus tends to reappear as a person grows older or when the patient has an already compromised immune system. The pain of shingles can be very severe, almost unbearable, and, more often than not, lasts long even after the blisters have disappeared.
Is there a way to prevent chickenpox?
The best and most important way to prevent chickenpox is to receive the chickenpox vaccine as at when due.
According to research done by some experts at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) center, it has been seen that the vaccination for this disease offers up to 98% complete protection for those individuals who were able to take the required portion of the recommended doses.
Although statistically, one can easily confirm that it doesn’t offer full protection, however, one can also conclude that it reduces the pains. The effects of chickenpox significantly causing the patient to feel only mild symptoms.