Experts create awareness against Chickenpox


ISLAMABAD: Medical experts on Sunday advised citizens to take special preventive measures to protect children from carrying Varicella virus (Chickenpox).

According to medical experts, Chickenpox is a viral illness characterised by a very itchy red rash and is one of the most common infectious diseases among children.

The disease is usually mild in children but there is a risk of serious complications such as bacterial pneumonia.

Dr Waseem Khawaja from Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) said that Chickenpox does not discriminate between race and gender and is so contagious that few nonimmunized people escape this common disease when they are exposed to a person carrying it.

He added that between 75 to 90 percent of cases occur in children under the age of 10 and that the disease usually spreads through sneezing, coughing, and breathing.

He said that it can also be transmitted through direct contact with open sores while clothing, bedding, and objects to which the patient is exposed are not usually hazardous.

Dr Khawaja also said that a person can receive the virus two days prior to the appearance of spots.

Once dry scabs form, the disease is unlikely to spread, he added.

He said that people who have had Chickenpox once almost always develop lifetime immunity; however, the virus remains dormant in the body and it can reactivate later in life and cause shingles.

He said that Chickenpox appears as a very itchy rash that spreads from the torso to the neck, face and limbs. Lasting seven to 10 days, the rash progresses from red bumps to fluid-filled blisters (vesicles) that drain and scab over, he added.

He said that vesicles may also appear in the mouth, on the scalp and around the eyes and can be very painful. This cycle repeats itself in new areas of the body until finally all of the sores have healed after about two weeks.

He said that the disease is contagious until all the spots have dried up and most cases of Chickenpox require little or no treatment beyond treating the symptoms.

Dr Sharif Astori from Federal Government Polyclinic said that the prescription antiviral drug is effective for shortening the duration of Chickenpox symptoms and may be recommended for certain people with Chickenpox, such as pregnant women, those with a compromised immune system, and adults who seek medical advice within 24 hours of the rash appearing.

He added the doctor may recommend painkiller and an antihistamine to relieve pain, itching and swelling.

Antibiotics are called for if a secondary bacterial skin infection arises or if the person with Chickenpox develops bacterial pneumonia, he added.