What is Chicken Pox?
Chicken pox is a highly contagious disease, primarily a disease of children, caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Complete recovery is the rule, but rare second cases have occurred. Curiously, the virus can remain dormant within the body and can emerge decades later in a new disease form called zoster, commonly known as shingles. You cannot develop shingles unless you have been previously infected with the chicken pox virus.
How is chicken pox spread?
Chicken pox is spread easily from person to person from sneezing and coughing or sharing food and beverages. Touching a chicken pox blister can also transmit the virus. Like many viruses, the infected individual can spread the virus before any symptoms or rash have developed. If you are in close contact with a person with chicken pox, and you are not immune to the disease, then you are at risk.
What are the symptoms of chicken pox?
Initial chicken pox symptoms are typical of many viral infections. Typically, there is fever, headache and sore throat. A day or two later, the chicken pox rash develops. This is a blistering rash over the body with new lesions appearing for up to a week. Once the blisters have crusted and dried, they are no longer infectious.
How is chicken pox diagnosed?
The diagnosis is based on your symptoms and the distinct chicken pox rash. No special blood tests are needed.
Is treatment available?
There is no treatment for chicken pox. Fluids are encouraged and medications may be recommended to lower fever and to reduce itching.
Can chicken pox be prevented?
Yes, chicken pox can be prevented by an effective vaccination. Chicken pox vaccine is administered in 2 doses to young children, or to adults who are not immune to the disease.
Do international travelers need to be protected?
Yes, chicken pox occurs all over the world. Travelers should be up-to-date on all of their routine vaccinations, including chicken pox, unless they are felt to be immune to the disease. Even routine diseases, such as chicken pox, can strike travelers abroad. This is why your Travel Clinics of America physician will review your medical and vaccination history in detail prior to departure.