Chicken Pox & Immunisation

1) Introduction
Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by Varicella Zoster Virus. It is a common childhood disease, characterised by fever and small, red, itchy blisters on the body and face.

2) Risk Factors
Chickenpox is highly contagious. It spreads from person to person by
1. direct contact
2. droplets from an infected person when he coughs or sneezes
3. articles freshly soiled by droplets or fluid from the blisters of an infected person. The scabs themselves are not considered infectious.

3) Complications
Possible complications of chickenpox infection includes:
● Skin infection such as sores becoming more red, swollen, or tender
● Dehydration due to frequent vomiting or refusal to drink. The person will pass urine less often, feel drowsy, have a dry mouth and lips, and be very thirsty
● Brain damage from encephalitis, which may present with severe headache, stiff neck and back, confusion, irritability, or excessive drowsiness
● Pneumonia characterised by coughing, wheezing, breathing difficulty, and chest pain
● Arthritis characterised by joint pain, stiffness and swelling.

4) Treatment and care
1. There are antiviral medications which can be used to treat chickenpox. These are usually most effective when taken within the first 24 hours of developing the illness
2. Avoid scratching as it can cause scarring

5) Prevention
The chickenpox vaccine( Varilrix) is safe and effective in protecting those who have never had chickenpox. MOH’s Expert Committee on Immunisation has recommended that
1. Children below 13 years of age should receive two doses with a recommended interval of at least 3 months.
2. Those who are 13 years and above continue to receive 2 doses, at 6 weeks interval.

How does Varilrix work?
This vaccine contains a live but weakened form of the virus that causes chickenpox, varicella-zoster. It works by provoking the body's immune response to this virus, without actually causing the disease

Feature photo credit : Charles Chan