What is Chickenpox disease?

Last Update on September 14, 2022

Medically reviewed by Angelena Maria Labella, MD

The varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox disease, is a highly contagious illness (VZV). It could result in a rash with itching blisters. Between 250 and 500 irritating blisters are produced by the rash, which initially occurs on the chest, back, and face before spreading across the entire body.

Particularly in children, teenagers, adults, pregnant women, and others with bodies that are less able to resist infection and illness, chickenpox disease can be devastating (weakened immune system). Getting the chickenpox disease vaccine is the greatest way to prevent getting the disease.

In the past, chickenpox disease was quite prevalent in the United States. The early 1990s saw an average of 4 million cases of chickenpox disease, 10,500–13,000 hospitalizations, and 100–150 deaths annually.

In the United States, the vaccination for chickenpox was made available in 1995. In the United States, vaccination against chickenpox prevents more than 3.5 million instances of the disease, 9,000 hospitalizations, and 100 deaths annually.

1. Signs and Symptoms of Chickenpox disease:

Anyone who has not had chickenpox disease or received the vaccine is susceptible to contracting the disease. The infection caused by chickenpox disease typically lasts 4 to 7 days.

A rash that develops into itchy, fluid-filled blisters that ultimately become scabs is the typical sign of chickenpox. The rash may initially appear on the chest, back, and face before spreading throughout the body and into the mouth, eyelids, or genital region. Normally, it takes all of the blisters one week to develop into scabs.

One to two days before the rash, the following other common symptoms may also start to express:

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache

2. Complication/Risk factors of Chickenpox disease:

Although complications from chickenpox disease can happen, they are uncommon in healthy individuals who contract the illness.

The following individuals are at a higher risk of complications and may experience a serious case of chicken pox:

  • Infants
  • Adolescents
  • Adults
  • Pregnant women
  • People whose bodies are less able to fight against viruses and disease (have weaker immune systems) due to sickness or drugs, such as those who have cancer or HIV/AIDS
  • Transplant patients, chemotherapy patients, immunosuppressant drug users, and long-term steroid users

Following are some serious consequences of chickenpox:

  • Children’s skin and soft tissue infections due to bacteria, such as Group A streptococcal infections
  • Illness of the lungs (pneumonia)
  • Brain infection or enlargement (encephalitis, cerebellar ataxia)
  • Bleeding issues (hemorrhagic complications)
  • Bloodstream illnesses (sepsis)
  • Dehydration

Serious complications from chickenpox disease can cause some people to become so ill that they require hospitalization. Death can also result from chickenpox.

Due to the vaccination campaign, deaths are now extremely infrequent. However, some healthy, unvaccinated children and adults continue to pass away from chickenpox disease. Historically, a large percentage of healthy adults who died from chickenpox got it from their unvaccinated children.

3. Transmission of Chickenpox disease:

The varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which causes chickenpox disease, is a highly contagious infection (VZV). People who have chickenpox disease can readily infect those who have never had the illness or received no vaccinations with the virus.

If one person has it, up to 90% of the persons in their immediate vicinity who lack immunity will also contract it. The major way the virus spreads is through intimate contact with an infected person.

A person with chickenpox disease is thought to be contagious from one to two days before the rash appears until all lesions have crusted (scabbed). Those who have received the chickenpox disease vaccine may experience non-crusting lesions. Until now new sores appear for 24 hours, and these patients are recognized as contagious.

Shingles are also brought on by the varicella-zoster virus. The virus lingers in the body following chickenpox disease (dormant). When VZV reactivates in a person’s body after they have already experienced chickenpox, they develop shingles.

VZV can be transferred from shingles patients to those who have never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine. This can occur while inhaling virus particles or coming into direct touch with blister fluid from shingles and rash blisters. If they contract the infection, they will get chickenpox rather than shingles.

After coming into contact with someone who has chickenpox or shingles, it usually takes between 10 and 21 days for someone to develop the disease. Even if vaccinated individuals contract the illness, they can still pass it on to others. The majority of people acquire lifetime immunity after experiencing chickenpox disease once. Although it is uncommon, it is possible to contract chickenpox more than once.

4. Prevention and Treatment of Chickenpox disease:

4.1. Prevention:

Getting the chickenpox vaccine is the greatest approach to avoid getting the disease. Everyone who has never had chickenpox or been vaccinated should receive two doses of the vaccine; including children, adolescents, and adults.

The vaccine for chickenpox disease is extremely secure and successful at preventing the illness. The majority of vaccine recipients won’t contract chickenpox. If a person who has had the vaccination develops chickenpox disease, their symptoms are typically milder, with fewer or no blisters (they may only have red spots), and a low-grade fever, if not none at all.

The majority of severe sickness cases are avoided with the chickenpox vaccine. There has been a significant reduction in chickenpox cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities by nearly 90% since the vaccination process began in the United States.

4.2. Treatment:

Call a medical professional if a person has shingles or chickenpox disease and they:

  • Neither has had chickenpox nor received the chickenpox vaccine.
  • Is expecting
  • Has a weakened immune system as a result of a disease or medicine, such as someone who has HIV/AIDS, or cancer, has a transplant, is on chemotherapy, immunosuppressive drugs, or the use of steroids drugs for a long period of time.

Call your healthcare practitioner if you experience any symptoms. It is essential to get in touch with a doctor if the person:

  • Is susceptible to developing severe consequences from chickenpox because they:
  • Is younger than one year old
  • Is over the age of twelve
  • Possesses a compromised immune system
  • Is pregnant

Develops any of the symptoms listed below:

  • More than four-day-long fever
  • More than 102°F (38.9°C) fever
  • If any parts of the rash or the body suddenly become extremely red, heated, or sensitive, or if they start to bleed pus (a thick, cloudy substance), these could be signs of a bacterial infection.
  • Having trouble waking up or acting confused
  • Having trouble walking
  • Rigid neck
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Having trouble breathing
  • Acute cough
  • Intense stomach discomfort
  • Rash that is bruised or bleeding (hemorrhagic rash)

Treatment from your Healthcare provider:

You can get treatment choices advice from your doctor. People with chickenpox disease who are more likely to develop serious illness are advised to take antiviral drugs, such as:

People over 12 who are otherwise healthy People with a history of skin or lung disease People using long-term salicylate or steroid medication

  • Expecting mothers
  • Those with compromised immune systems
  • Antiviral drugs are available with approval to treat chickenpox. The earlier the drug is administered, ideally within the first 24 hours after the rash begins the better.