What causes chickenpox?
The viral infection name for Chicken pox is called Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) – the same virus that causes shingles. It causes an itchy, red, lumpy rash and pain along the area of skin supplied by the affected nerve.
Transmitted through direct person-to-person contact and airborne droplet infection (e.g. coughing and sneezing). Incubation periods for the chickenpox virus is roughly 10 to 21 days. A person will continue to be infectious until all the lesions have crusted over. Taking about five to six days after the onset of the illness. Outbreaks of the virus tend to occur in winter and spring.
Signs and symptoms?
Many people will experience fever and a feeling of malaise before the visible onset of chickenpox lesions. Whilst the rash is very itchy , the spots are easily identifiable to a trained eye.
Symptoms of chickenpox include:
- Low-grade fever (37-38 degrees Celcius)
- Feeling low and lethargic
- Small blisters surrounded by irregularly-shaped patches of inflamed skin. These first appear on the torso, and then spread to head and limbs. Rashes can be mild to very profuse.
Lesions develop at different stages. For instance, the chickenpox rash will appear in the first 48 hours. Developing into a itchy, red and lumpy rash on the face, torso and limbs. As many as 250 – 500 chickenpox blisters can develop. New clear vesicles (fluid-filled blisters) develop for the first seven days of rash progression. Vesicles then progress to pustules (pus-filled blisters) and then after a week the blisters crust over and begin to dry up. Above all, the whole process can last up to 20 days.
Spots can appear everywhere, including the face, scalp, ears, back, chest, legs, arms, hands, feet, bottom and private parts. It’s important, to note that people who have been vaccinated against chickenpox often have atypical symptoms of chicken pox. Spots might not appear on the torso first and can be very mild in appearance.
In healthy children, chickpox is usually a mild illness with no complications. Pregnant women and those whose immune systems are compromised due to illness or treatments may experience more serious complications, for instance.
What causes chickenpox to spread?
Once you have been exposed to chickenpox and infected, it takes around 14 days for the rash to appear. This is called the incubation period, and the virus is highly contagious. Passed on by airborne droplets from the mouth or nose (via sneezing or coughing), hygiene is very important. The fluid in the blisters also contains the virus, and touching them can be a means of passing on the infection. The contagion period usually starts 1-3 days before the rash appears and continues until the blisters form scabs. Normally, this will happen about 5-7 days after the rash first appears.