Chickenpox

Chickenpox  is a highly infectious disease caused by the varicella zoster virus or VSV. It is highly contagious to people who haven’t had the disease or have been vaccinated against it.

Chickenpox is common in childhood specially below the age of 10.  It is usually non life threatening.  However, chickenpox tends to be more severe if you get it as an adult. Of particular concern will be for women who gets infected with chickenpox during pregnancy.

Pregnant Women

Chickenpox can cause serious complications for both the pregnant woman and her baby. Currently, chickenpox is said to occur in approximately three in every 1,000 pregnancies.  If you are infected with chickenpox during the first 20 weeks of your pregnancy, there is a risk that your unborn baby could develop a condition known as foetal varicella syndrome which can cause complications to the health of the unborn child such as scarring, eye defects, shortened limbs and brain damage.  If a pregnant woman catches chickenpox chickenpox after week 20 of pregnancy, it is possible that your baby may be born prematurely. And if a pregnant woman is infected with chickenpox seven days before or seven days after giving birth, the newborn baby may develop a more fatal type of chickenpox.

Transmission

  • The virus is transmitted by direct contact with the rash or by droplets dispersed into the air by coughing or sneezing.
  • Once infected, you can spread the virus for up to 48 hours before the rash appears.
  • You remain contagious until all spots or blisters in your completely dries.

Signs and Symptoms

Chickenpox signs and symptoms is generally mild in healthy children. The most common sign of chickenpox is a rash. The rash goes through three phases of development:

  • Bumps – raised pink or red bumps (papules) that break out over several days
  • Blisters – fluid-filled blisters (vesicles) forming from the raised bumps
  • Scabs – that cover the broken blisters and takes several more days to heal

Note: In severe cases, the chickenpox rash can spread to cover the entire body including forming lesions in the throat, eyes, mucous membranes of the urethra, anus and vagina.

Prevention

If you had chickenpox as a child, your body is already immune to the virus.  Although, it is possible to get chickenpox more than once, this is not common.

For those who haven’t had chickenpox before, a Varicella (Chickenpox) Vaccine is the most effective way to prevent chickenpox infection especially for women who are of child bearing age or planning to get pregnant.  (The vaccine is not advised during pregnancy, for people who are older than 65 or for those who have a weakened immune system.)

Vaccines available to prevent Chickenpox Infection:

Chickenpox (Varicella) Vaccines

Resources for this article:
http://www.mayoclinic.com
http://www.nhs.uk
http://www.cdc.gov