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Unseasonal chickenpox grips city, docs baffled

The disease, which usually dies out when summer peaks, spreading at an alarming rate; doctors wonder how chickenpox virus survived high temperature, Sidhartha Dutta reports.

health and fitness Updated: Jun 17, 2013 02:50 IST
Sidhartha Dutta
Sidhartha Dutta
Hindustan Times

Chickenpox has gripped the city and it seems that it is here to stay. The infection, which usually strikes people in late winter and early spring (March and April) before dying out as summer peaks, has witnessed an unseasonal outbreak this year.

“Last month, about 30 patients were diagnosed with chickenpox in a free medical camp at Palam Gaon. Cases are being reported from all across the city,” said Dr Ramesh Bansal, senior paediatrician, Astha Nursing Home, Darya Ganj.

“In my clinic, I handled three cases in June,” said Bansal.

Dr Anil Bansal, member Delhi Medical Council, said the situation is alarming. "Chickenpox cases are rising and we need to research to understand whether Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) — which causes the infection — has mutated to survive high temperature," he said.

Large private hospitals confirm the trend. "In the last three-four days, five patients have been diagnosed with chickenpox at Apollo Hospital. The numbers are going up with each passing day,” said Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant, internal medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.

Dr Rommel Tickoo, Senior consultant, internal medicine, Max Hospital, was of the view that though chickenpox was not a seasonal disease, the cases have gone up compared to those reported last year in the same period.

Sir Ganga Ram Hospital has also reported cases of chickenpox in the past few days.

“At least one chickenpox case is reported a week. I have seen three-four cases of chickenpox at Ganga Ram in the past three weeks. The disease is not just common among children, even adults can be affected. There is no age bar for the disease,” said Dr SP Byotra, chairman, department of medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

Symptoms include high fever, headache, loss of appetite and skin rashes, which usually starts from the abdomen. It’s a self-limiting disease that lasts for a week to 10 days in children, but a little longer in adults.

“Varicella vaccine given to a toddler followed by booster shots after four-six years can protect children from infection. Antivirals given at an early stage cause milder symptoms,” added Dr Bansal.

According to sources at MVID hospital, Kingsway Camp, a municipal corporation-run hospital, cases of chickenpox are being reported at an alarming rate. “We are getting cases of chickenpox continuously. The numbers have not gone down in the last one month,” said the source.

A patient suffering from chickenpox is usually kept in isolation.

“A patient is kept in isolation for a period of 10 days, till the vesicular eruptions are dried up and the crusts are formed. Generally, children are affected by this disease. The virus is spread through the air by an infected person sneezing or coughing. Hence, infected children should be kept away from other family members who have not had chickenpox,” added Dr Ramesh Bansal.

First Published: Jun 16, 2013 21:52 IST