Chickenpox and its prevention

 

Yow Hui Yin,
BPharm, PhD, RPh

Most people get chickenpox during their childhood. However, there is a possibility that chicken pox occurs in an adult who has never had it before.

Did you know that chickenpox is highly contagious? It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus which spreads from person to person easily, especially to those who have never had the disease or have not been vaccinated. It spreads primarily by direct contact, such as by touching the fluids from chickenpox blisters and breathing in the virus particles, possibly through tiny droplets from the infected person when they cough, sneeze or talk.

An infected person is highly contagious from 1 – 2 days before the rash starts until all the blisters have crusted over (usually 5 – 7 days). To prevent yourself from getting infected, you are advised to stay away from the infected person during this period or to get the chickenpox vaccine. Once infected, it takes approximately 2 weeks (10 – 21 days) after the exposure to develop full-blown chickenpox.

Chickenpox-and-its-prevention

Chickenpox is usually mild and lasts for one week. However, in rare cases, serious complications can occur, especially in babies, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems (e.g. HIV patients, patients on chemotherapy and transplant patients). In these groups of patients, chickenpox may put them at higher risk of infections of the skin, soft tissues, lung, brain or blood, bleeding problems and dehydration. Hospitalisation is required for those with serious complications as it may be life-threatening.

If you have never had chickenpox before, the best way to protect against chickenpox is by chickenpox vaccination. This is particularly important for those at higher risk of complications. The chickenpox vaccine is available for children, adolescents and adults. Two doses of the vaccine are about 90% effective at preventing chickenpox. Vaccination is not only about protecting yourself, but also protecting your family members or others in the community. Occasionally, vaccinated individuals can still contract the disease although the symptoms are usually milder with less blisters or no fever. Consult your doctor or pharmacist to get more information about chickenpox vaccine.

Do stay tuned for the upcoming article on the treatment for chickenpox.

References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/index.html. [Accessed on 26 June 2017].
  2. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Chickenpox/Pages/Introduction.aspx#FAQs. [Accessed on 26 June 2017].
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