Symptom and Diseases

Chicken Pox & its symptoms

What is it?
Chicken pox is a mild illness caused by a virus called Varicella zoster. It is much more severe in adults than in children, and can be a particular problem in pregnancy.

What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of chicken pox begin with a "'flu-like" illness, a rash and a slightly raised temperature. The most characteristic feature of chicken pox is the rash, which starts out as crops of raised red spots, which then develop into small blisters that scab over in 3-4 days. The rash can be widespread but is usually concentrated towards the centre of the body.

Chicken pox is mainly a disease of children and is usually a mild illness.

However, children with leukaemia or other problems of the immune system have an increased risk of developing a severe form of the illness. The virus causing chicken pox appears to remain dormant within the body after recovery and can occasionally be ' reactivated' in later life. This ' reactivation' is the cause of shingles (Herpes zoster) in adults and older children. Chicken pox can be much more serious in adults and particularly during pregnancy.

How is it spread?
Chicken pox is highly infectious and is usually spread from person to person by coughs and sneezes. The incubation period is two to three weeks. Chicken pox can passed to others from 1-2 days before the rash appears until 5 days after the rash has started. Chicken pox is highly infectious and most people have had the illness before they reach adulthood, although the incidence of chicken pox in adults is rising in the UK. A child who has had chicken pox will be immune for life. It is very difficult to prevent the spread of chicken pox as it has already been passed on to others before the spots appear and the diagnosis becomes obvious.

How can it be prevented?
Chicken pox is highly infectious and it is very difficult to prevent it spreading from person to person.

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