Chicken pox is a very common illness that mainly affects children under the age of ten. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, sufferers reporting fever, and red, blister-like spots mainly on the face, back and abdomen, and an itchy rash all over the body. A dangerous aspect of the illness is that it is most contagious some time before the actual physical symptoms appear. Indeed, it can actually take anything between 10 and 21 days for an infected child to become contagious, during which time it will not be at all apparent that they are infected.
In the two days prior to the appearance of physical symptoms, most children report a sore-throat and sometimes nausea and headaches, the type of symptoms that might be associated with flu or the common cold. These confusing signs and lack of obvious symptoms, together with the lengthy incubation period, help the virus to spread through direct contact with other children and through sneezes and coughs, which send infected particles and droplets into the air. Thus, it is only after two or three days that it becomes apparent that the child has the virus, by which time others will have been infected.
The spots and the itchy rash are normally present for just a few days. On average, most children are able to return to school or normal daily activity after a couple of weeks in all. During that time, the child should ideally be segregated and isolated so that they do not infect other children. Having said this, many parents quite reasonably take the view that it is better for a child to have contact with a sufferer and be infected as early as possible, as this at least gets the experience out of the way, and once a child has suffered from chicken pox, they are effectively vaccinated against it for life. A recurrence is theoretically possible, but there are very few known cases for the chicken pox to come back One influencing factor in this type of approach is that the virus causes much more serious symptoms in adults than it does in children. Teenagers can develop high fever, lesions and damage to internal organs, while the virus can cause pneumonia in adults. For these reasons, the best time to contract the virus is during early childhood. On the other hand, the virus remains in the body even after remission and about 10% of sufferers will develop shingles in later age – usually after the age of 50 – which is caused by the resident varicella-zoster virus.
Tips and comments
The future for the treatment of the virus is vaccines, which can prevent most children contracting the virus. The best vaccine product currently on the market is Varivax, which has a 90% success rate. This is a highly-safe and effective vaccine, though it is presently unclear for how long it gives immunity from the virus. While it is certainly not fatal, there are serious efforts which are being done to eradicate chicken pox through government-run vaccination programs across the world. It is important that the child who is currently suffering from this disease to be isolated from other children and use separate eating utensils to prevent others from acquiring the said condition.