City doctors have been getting a flurry of chickenpox cases for a month now, with the soaring mercury levels.
“I have already seen about 25-30 cases of chickenpox since past few weeks. The warm temperature that we see these days helps in activating viruses and bacteria that attack people, especially with low immunity,” says Dr Srikant Sharma, senior consultant, department of medicine, Moolchand Hospital.
People at high risk are those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure, cancer, chronic kidney ailment, HIV or tuberculosis and people on steroids or other immunity-suppressing medicines.
Normally, red-coloured rashes appear within 24 hours of a person getting fever, up to 102 Fahrenheit, which turn into fluid-filled blisters, before finally crusting over.
The blisters are itchy and take about 10 days to crust over. A person develops relative immunity toward chickenpox for life.
“The virus lies dormant. There may be a local infection at some point that makes skin to flare up, but the disease per se happens only once in a life time,” said a doctor from the paediatrics department, All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
The chicken pox virus Varicella-zoster uses droplets in the air to travel. If a person with the infection coughs or sneezes near a healthy person, he or she might contract it.
A person may also contract the infection if exposed to the fluid from the eruptions.
Chickenpox is a common childhood disease. But when people catch the disease for the first time as adults, the symptoms tend to be severe.
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 mostly treated at the symptomatic level, to reduce severe itchiness and to bring down fever.
Due to its highly contagious nature, doctors advise people to stay away from those who have developed rashes on skin, usually within 24 hours of getting fever.
The vaccine Varicella costs about `1,500 and is the widely used protection against chickenpox. However, due it high cost, doctors feel it is not feasible for everyone to use it. “It’s not part of the national immunisation programme purely because of its high cost and also the disease normally is not of very serious nature. The vaccine is good for those who can afford it, otherwise it should be given mainly to high-risk people,” said Dr Sharma.
According to the doctors, it takes about two to three days to develop immunity against the disease, hence, it is important to take the vaccine shot immediately after a near one has developed symptoms.
Symptoms of chickenpox
*A rash that usually begins on the body and face and later often spreads to the scalp and limbs
*The rash is often itchy
*It begins as small red spots which develop into blisters in a couple of hours
*After a couple of days, the blisters turn into scabs
*New blisters may appear after three to six days
*High grade fever
*Severe head and body ache
*Loss of appetite
*Children have mild symptoms
*In children, the symptoms last 7 to 10 days, and longer in adults.
*Adults get severe symptoms and take longer to recover. They are also more likely than children to suffer from complications.