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Streptococcus A infections
What is varicella (chickenpox)?
Chickenpox is an infectious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus which results in a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness and fever.
The rash appears first on the trunk and face, but can spread over the entire body causing between 250 to 500 itchy blisters. Most cases of chickenpox occur in persons less than 15 years old.
How do you get chickenpox?
Chickenpox is highly infectious and spreads from person to person by direct contact or through the air from an infected personís coughing or sneezing. A persons with chickenpox is contagious 1-2 days before the rash appears and until all blisters have formed scabs. It takes from 10-21 days after contact with an infected person for someone to develop chickenpox.
What is the chickenpox illness like?
In children, chickenpox most commonly causes an illness that lasts about 5-10 days. Children usually miss 5 or 6 days of school or childcare due to their chickenpox. About half of all children with chickenpox visit a doctor due to symptoms of their illness such as high fever, severe itching, an uncomfortable rash, dehydration or headache.
In addition, about 1 child in 10 has a complication from chickenpox serious enough to require some form of medical attention, including infected skin lesions, other infections, dehydration from vomiting or diarrhea, exacerbation of asthma & pneumonia. Reports of severe invasive infections from Group A Strep have heightened awareness that chicken pox is a well defined risk factor for Group A Strep disease.
Certain groups of persons are more likely to have more serious illness with complications. These include adults, infants and people with weak immune systems from either illnesses or from medications such a long-term steroids.
What are the serious complications from chickenpox?
Many people are not aware of the fact that Chicken Pox can have serious side effects, or that a vaccine exists which means that they could be avoided. The U.S. brought in a vaccination programme for Chicken Pox due to the level of complications they were seeing. Prior to its introduction there were approximately 11,000 hospitalizations and 100 deaths from chickenpox in the U.S. every year. One child and one adult died each week.
Serious complications from chickenpox include bacterial infections which can involve many sites of the body including the skin, tissues under the skin, bone, lungs (pneumonia), joints and the blood. Other serious complications are due directly to the virus infection and include viral pneumonia, bleeding problems and infection of the brain (encephalitis).
Can a healthy person with varicella die from the disease?
Yes, as Conor's death sadly shows. Many of the deaths and complications from chickenpox occur in previously healthy children and adults. From 1990 to 1994, before the US vaccinated, there were about 50 chickenpox deaths in children and 50 chickenpox deaths in adults every year; most of these persons were healthy or did not have a medical illness that placed them at higher risk of getting severe chickenpox.
Since 1999, the US has encouraged states to report chickenpox deaths to the US Centre for Disease Control. In 1999 and 2000, the CDC received reports that showed that deaths from chickenpox continue to occur in healthy, unvaccinated children and adults. Most of the healthy adults who died from chickenpox contracted the disease from their unvaccinated children.
Can you get chickenpox more than once?
Yes, but it is uncommon to do so. For most people, one infection is thought to confer lifelong immunity.
Can chickenpox be prevented?
Yes, chickenpox can now be prevented by vaccination. The U.S. routinely vaccinates children for Chicken Pox as it believes that now that there is a safe and effective vaccine available, it is not worth taking risks, given that it is not possible to predict who will have a mild case of chickenpox and who will have a serious or even deadly case of the disease.* Adapted from the CDC general Q&A document on Varicella (Chicken Pox).
See the original article and related topics at the Centre for Disease Control website
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