Chickenpox, or chicken pox, is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is highly contagious but almost always without gravity. It is one of the most common diseases in children under 10, so much so that more than 90% of adults are immune because they have contracted at some time in life. Once exposed to the disease, the person becomes immune for the rest of his or her life. In spite of this, the virus installs latently in the body, in nerve ganglia near the spine. If there is a reactivation of this virus, it can cause a disease called herpes zoster, which has a generally typical clinical picture of vesicles grouped on an erythematous basis, associated with sensation of pain, burning and increased local sensitivity. Children tend to contract chickenpox in the winter because the concentration of people indoors increases because of the cold. The transmission of chicken pox is by direct contact with the saliva or respiratory secretions of the infected person, or by contact with the liquid inside the vesicles. After contact, the incubation period lasts on average 15 days. Complete recovery occurs seven to 10 days after the onset of symptoms.
Chickenpox in children is considered a disease without much gravity, but it can make them very irritated and tired because of the symptoms. First comes the fever, which can reach 39.5º, malaise, lack of appetite and tiredness. Then red spots start to itch. These spots become bubbles filled with liquid that, after bursting, form small bruises that soon become barks and heal. Usually, the disease process takes between one and two weeks. Some children have only few lesions, but in others, they can spread throughout the body. The lesions are more numerous in the trunk and tend to save the extremities, and can appear in mucous, like mouth and genital area. The main complication of chicken pox is the secondary infection of the lesions. For this reason you should avoid scratching them and pulling out their cones.
There is no specific treatment, but there are medications that can relieve symptoms such as paracetamol and dipyrone for fever, and calamine lotion and gels that refresh and relieve itching. Use of antiseptics, such as triclosan-based soaps, and baths with potassium permanganate are also valid. Extensive forms of chickenpox, in adults or immunocompromised, may require antiviral treatment and / or specific immunoglobulins.
The disease, which is highly contagious, spreads in the following ways: from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding; by respiratory droplets in the air (coughing or sneezing); skin contact (handshakes or hugs); by touching a contaminated surface (blanket or doorknob). The best way to prevent the disease is to get vaccinated. Since 2013, the chickenpox vaccine is offered by SUS. It is part of the tetravirus that also protects against measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination is important because it preserves not only the person against the diseases, but everyone in his community. This is especially important for people who can not get vaccinated, such as those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women. Some people, even vaccinated against chickenpox, may still have the disease. However, it will be a generally milder version with fewer blisters and little or no fever.