HYDERABAD: More than 90 percent of chickenpox cases occur in children less than 12 years of age. It is a very common and highly contagious disease, said eminent Child Specialist and Pediatrician of Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS), Jamshoro Professor Dr. Salma Shaikh.
Transmission of chickenpox occurs from person-to-person by direct contact or through the air, Dr. Salma said while talking here on Monday.
She said chickenpox is a common childhood skin disease caused by a virus. The virus is called the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and the disease is caused by the virus VZV.
Dr. Salma informed that most people contract chickenpox by age 15, the majority between ages 5 and 9, but all ages can contract it and the chickenpox is usually more severe in adults and very young infants than children. Winter and spring are the most common times of the year for chickenpox to occur, the pediatrician added.
About the spread of chickenpox spread she said it is very highly contagious and it is easily passed between members of families and school classmates through airborne particles, droplets in exhaled air and fluid from the blisters or sores and it also can be transmitted indirectly by contact with articles of clothing and other items exposed to fresh drainage from open sores.
She said that patients are contagious up to five days (more commonly, one to two days) before and five days after the date that their rash appears. When the sores have crusted over, the person is usually no longer contagious.
About the symptoms of chickenpox she informed that these tend to appear 14 to 16 days after the initial exposure but can occur any time from 10 days up to 21 days after contact with the virus.
Dr. Salma Shaikh further said that chickenpox is characterised by one to two days of mild fever up to 102 degrees F, general weakness, and a rash, often the first sign of the disease.
She said that the rash of chickenpox develops in crops with raised red spots arriving first, progressing to blisters that burst, and creating open sores, before crusting over.
She said that this process usually starts on the scalp, then the trunk (its area of greatest concentration), and finally the arms and legs. Any area of skin that is irritated by diapers rash, poison ivy, eczema and, sunburn, etc is likely to be hard hit by the rash, she added.
She further informed that the next most common complications in children affect the central nervous system and include a disorder of the cerebella portion of the brain, dizziness, tremor, and altered speech and the damaged nerves.
Dr. Salma Shaikh further informed that the complications also occur in people taking immune-suppressing drugs, such as cortisone-related medications. Newborn infants whose mothers have chickenpox in the last trimester of pregnancy are at increased risk from the disease. If the mother develops the disease from five days before to two days after delivery, the fatality rate for the baby is up to 30 percent, she added.
She said that if an older person has not had chickenpox, the shot may be given at any time. There have been few significant adverse reactions to the chickenpox vaccine. All children, except those with a compromised immune system, should have the vaccination, she added.
Informing further about the chicken pox during pregnancy Prof.Dr. Salma Shaikh said that chickenpox can cause serious problems during pregnancy, especially when infection occurs early in the pregnancy or at the time of delivery.
She said that if chickenpox occurs early in pregnancy, several types of fetal abnormalities, including limb abnormalities, scarring of internal organs and neurological damage can occur.
She informed that pregnant women who suspect exposure to chickenpox should immediately contact their healthcare provider.
About the prevention, Dr. Salma Shaikh said that chickenpox can be prevented. The easiest way to prevent catching chicken pox is to get vaccinated. However, vaccination is only successful in 70 percent to 90 percent of all vaccinations.