What is Chickenpox?
Chickenpox, also called varicella, is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus of the herpes zoster family.
How is Chickenpox Spread?
It is spread by direct contact with an infected person or through the air when the infected person coughs or sneezes. Infected persons can spread the disease before they know they have it. In fact, people with chickenpox are contagious from about 2 days before the rash develops until ALL of the blister-like lesions have crusted over, usually 5-7 days after the rash appears.
What are the Symptoms?
The incubation period for chickenpox is 10-21 days, which means that symptoms don't show up until 2-3 weeks after exposure. Toward the end of this period, the infected person may feel irritable, achy, and/or feverish. Next comes the rash or "pocks" of chickenpox. They usually start as small red spots on the trunk and/or face, but can spread over the entire body in the next 3-5 days. These lesions fill with fluid, rupture, and finally form crusts or scabs. These blisters are very itchy and may result in permanent scarring, especially if scratched. They may spread inside the mouth or other body openings, making the patient even more uncomfortable.
How is Chickenpox Treated?
The usual treatments are aimed at making the infected person more comfortable, and including pain relievers, plenty of fluids, oatmeal baths, and topical medications designed to relieve itching. It will also help to keep your child's fingernails short and clean and encourage the wearing of loose fitting clothing.
How can Chickenpox be Prevented?
It is important that the infected person not have contact with others who have not had the disease until ALL of the sores have crusted over and started to heal. Please remember that this warning includes other shoppers at your grocery store, other children at the movie theatre, as well as others at school, daycare, or soccer practice.
Avoid the serious complications of Reye's Syndrome!!!
DO NOT use Aspirin or any other remedies which contain aspirin or salicylates for fever or symptoms that accompany chickenpox or influenza!! Many drugs contain salicylates, therefore you MUST read all labels carefully.
Where can you get more information?
Your family doctor, school Health Office and the staff at the local health department are excellent sources for information on all communicable diseases.
Parents of students with a communicable or contagious disease are asked to telephone the school Health Office so that other students who have been exposed to the disease can be alerted. Students with diseases are not allowed to come to school while they are contagious.
The chickenpox vaccine, Varivax, is 70-80% effective, after the first dose, in preventing chickenpox in children who are immunized, but it is 100% effective at preventing a severe case of chickenpox. Prevention rates increase with a second dose. Though it is possible for your child to get chickenpox after the vaccine, it is usually a mild case, with lower fever, fewer blisters, and a quicker recovery than that of a child who has not been immunized. If your child has not had the varicella vaccine please contact your family doctor or school Health Office for more information.