Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). VZV is a DNA virus and is a member of the herpesvirus family. Primary infection with VZV results in chickenpox. The virus is believed to have a short survival time in the environment. Chickenpox can be serious, especially in babies, adults and people with weakened immune system.
Signs and Symptoms
- Rash, Blisters and Scabs
- Loss of appetite
- The VZV enters through the respiratory tract and conjunctiva in the body.
- The virus is believed to replicate at the site of entry in the nasopharynx and in regional lymph nodes.
- A primary viremia occurs 4 to 6 days after infection and disseminates the virus to other organs, such as the liver, spleen, and sensory ganglia.
- Further replication occurs in the viscera, followed by a secondary viremia, with viral infection of the skin.
- The virus spreads easily from people with chickenpox to others who have never had the disease or been vaccinated.
- The virus spreads mainly by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from chickenpox blisters.
Prevention and treatment
- The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine.
- Use non-aspirin medication, such as acetaminophen, to relieve fever from chickenpox.
- Antiviral medications are recommended for people with chickenpox.
- Acyclovir, an antiviral medication, is licensed for treatment of chickenpox.
- The medication works best if it is given within first 24 hours after the rash starts.