Chickenpox is an infectious disease caused by the "varicella-zoster virus". Chicken pox occurs especially in children and usually in a mild form.
Almost all children in the West get chickenpox. It occurs especially in children between the ages of 1 and 8 years. After healing, the virus can remain present for years. It can sometimes cause shingles at a later age. The virus enters through the airways and is very contagious.
Spreading the virus
The chickenpox virus spreads via droplets that end up in the air from the nose or mouth of an infected person when she coughs or sneezes. Children in the environment breathe in these droplets. Chicken pox can also spread through direct contact with the skin rash of an infected person. Shaking hands or using a towel together can also lead to contamination.
The incubation period is on average between 2 and 3 weeks. A child is already contagious from 2 days before the formation of the blisters begins. The infectivity has disappeared about 4 to 5 days after the formation of the blisters. The chance of contamination has disappeared after all the vesicles have dried up.
In the first days before the disease breaks out, the child won't be too sick but may have the following symptoms:
The diagnosis is made on the basis of the symptoms and a physical examination of the patient. Blood may be extracted for testing, sometimes a small amount of fluid is taken from the vesicles.
Help with itching
Complications of chickenpox are rare, but can be life-threatening, such as pneumonia. This starts between the third and fifth day of the result. Possible symptoms are:
Other complications of chickenpox are forehead, throat and ear infections.