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Chicken pox is milder in kids

delhi Updated: Feb 07, 2011 01:18 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times
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Shaina Rai (name changed), 26, has been unable to attend office over the past one week due to hundreds of itchy, fluid-filled blisters that have appeared all over her body.

"Chickenpox," the doctor had said the moment he had looked at her. And since, the disease is highly contagious, she has been advised to stay at home for at least 10 days.

"Chicken pox is not a very common disease, and doesn't occur in a particular season.

We get sporadic cases throughout the year. But it is highly contagious and there are chances of it spreading through cross-infection," said Dr Vinod Kumar Paul, head of department, paediatrics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The disease usually spreads through the fluid of the blisters, and even when one comes in contact with fluid-infected clothes.

Caused by the virus Varicella zoster, chickenpox is a common childhood disease. But those who do not catch it in either childhood or adolescence can get affected by it later in life and the infection is usually more severe in adults.

"I see about 10 chickenpox cases in a month, a couple of them being adults. There is a slight spurt in the number during the rainy season, but that can be because the wet weather is anyway conducive for most skin infections," said Dr Sushum Sharma, head, preventive healthcare programme, Max Hospital.

Normally, red-coloured rashes appear within 24 hours of fever that can go up to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. These rashes later turn into fluid-filled blisters before finally crusting over. The blisters are very itchy and take about 10 days to crust over.

A person then develops relative immunity towards chickenpox for life. "The virus lies dormant. There may be a local infection at some point which leads to skin flaring up, but the disease happens only once in a lifetime," said Paul.

Earlier there was no specific treatment for chickenpox, but these days certain anti-viral drugs are available that minimise its magnitude significantly. The disease is usually treated at the primary level and doesn’t need any specialised care. Symptomatic treatment is given in most cases to reduce severe itchiness or to bring down fever.

Most health experts feel vaccination is the best preventive measure. The vaccine, Varicella costs Rs1,400 and due to its high cost, it is not very affordable for the poor.