Ew….It’s chickenpox!

Pattie Crider

Natural Field History

Essay 2

March 15, 2014

Chickenpox Made Me Sick

When I was a young child my aunt called my mom to report my cousin had contracted the chickenpox and my mom, being an excellent mother, told my aunt to bring my cousin over and infect my brother and I so she could “get this virus out of the way.” There wasn’t an anti-virus back in the 70’s so my mom saw this as the opportunity to hit the milestone in a child’s life by having the chickenpox and never dealing with the virus again.

Chickenpox is the common term for this virus; its medical name is varicella. Varicella is caused by the single-cell, herpes virus, varicella-zoster. It is categorized with other viral rashes such as measles, German measles, fifth disease, mumps and roseola. Chickenpox can infect someone at any age but usually happens to children between the ages of 2 to 8 years old. I don’t recall being in school when I was intentionally infected so that put me around age 4 in 1974. Advancements in medicine have now made it that children can be vaccinated against the varicella virus and 90% of those who receive the vaccine never develop chickenpox, lucky them.

The cause of chickenpox can be due to a mother becoming infected while she is pregnant, though neonatal infection is rare. Usually, the virus is passed through the air and sometimes through direct contact of the ruptured lesions. The lesions (see fig. 1) are a rash that start as red bumps (papules) and fill with a clear liquid (blisters) and when they rupture, the virus is spread. They form a scab during the healing process (ulcer) and are no longer contagious. The incubation period lasts from about 14 to 17 days. The symptoms 24 hours prior to the rash appearing are a low-grade fever, headache, lack of appetite and generally feeling like crap. This virus affects males and females and can be contracted anywhere in the world and is most prevalent in temperate climates with more outbreaks recorded during late autumn, winter, and spring. This is because areas with temperate climates have more human to human interaction allowing the virus to more easily spread.

FIGURE 1

LOOKS NOTHING LIKE CHICKEN

The varicella rash usually forms on the back and belly and works its way up to the neck and face, sometimes infecting the arms and legs and extremities. Occasionally it also infects the inside of the mouth, eyes and genitalia. Naturally, the lesions are itchy making it difficult to keep a child from tearing them open.  My mother clipped my nails back and coated me with calamine lotion so I looked like a pink-polka dotted leper. This wasn’t enough to stop me from scratching the lesions open and I have permanent side effects-scars on my forehead-from my tangle with this virus. (see fig. 2) Anti-itch medications can be administered and if an infection would occur from the open blisters, an antibiotic may be prescribed. The virus is not considered deadly and most people recover with little complications. The varicella virus may dangerous if an adult is infected and it is possibly linked to the onset of shingles in older adults who had been infected as a child.

MY FOREHEAD

MY FOREHEAD

There is some good news about this virus, once someone has been infected with chickenpox; it is rare it ever returns. The bad news is there can be long-term problems from this virus. The most common is damage to the central nervous system, this can include but is not limited to dizziness, tremors, altered speech, headaches, seizures, damaged nerves and the development of Reye’s syndrome, which can be deadly.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Longworth, David L. Handbook of Infectious Diseases. Springhouse Corporation. PA. 2001. Print.

Partners in Pediatrics. Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Infectious diseases. Chickenpox.     Web. Accessed Mar. 11 2014.

Web MD. Skin problems and treatments. 2005. Web. Accessed Mar. 11 2014.

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