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Media Essay, Research Paper

CHICKEN POX

Chicken Pox is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, a type of herpes virus. It is contracted by contact with actual lesions or by respiratory secretions and there is a 10-21 day incubation period during which your child is developing the illness but does not show any symptoms and is not contagious (until the very last 1 or 2 days before the pox appear.). Once the vesicles show up there are likely to be many more on the way for between 3 and 7 more days and your child is contagious throughout this whole period until there are no new lesions for at least 24 hours and the old lesions are dry or scabbed. This virus is unusual in several ways, one way being that it settles into areas of the nervous system and then potentially can reactivate as a localized painful rash that follows a nerve path. This is known as herpes zoster (also referred to as Shingles) and it is spread to anyone who has never had chicken pox only by direct contact with the lesions (not by the respiratory route like the original chicken pox infection). Zoster often occurs in elderly or run down or immune compromised people and is not the result of exposure to a child with chicken pox – it is a reactivation of one’s own previous chicken pox infection, usually from as far back as childhood. This becomes important to families when young children with chicken pox are scheduled to visit grandparents and parents are concerned that their elderly parents will “catch” pox from the grandchildren.

Chicken pox can be acquired any time during the year but is most prevalent in winter and spring. 90-95% of Americans get chicken pox in childhood and often from their own siblings. For unclear reasons, chicken pox is less common in tropical climates and many adult immigrants are not protected from this infection. Infection in adults is typically more severe and can be life threatening.

Almost all exposed children will develop a rash, described as “dewdrops on rosebuds”, although some children have so few lesions that they may go unnoticed. Many children have a prodrome (sick period before the actual obvious illness appears) that included fever, malaise, headache, poor appetite, and mild abdominal pain. These symptoms may continue for 2-4 days after the rash first appears. Usually the vesicles start on the face and scalp, moving next to the trunk and then on to the extremities. They arrive in clumps so that there are clusters of lesions in various stages around the body. The average number of lesions is about 300 but as few as 10 and as many as 1500 lesions have been counted on one child! They begin as itchy raised red bumps that soon become blister like with fluid inside and then “pop” or ooze and then crust over. Second cases in the home are usually worse than the original case and children with skin conditions such as excema are also prone to worse outbreaks. The lesions can appear anywhere including the mouth, the vagina , the anus, the eyes, and although painful, it rarely has serious outcome. The healing lesions are hypopigmented for many weeks but pox rarely scar except when badly gouged and infected secondarily with bacteria in the fingernails of the “scratcher”.

An immune globulin called VZIG (varicella-zoster immune globulin) is available for protection of immune compromised children, pregnant women, and newborn infants exposed to maternal varicella right before or after Chicken Pox is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, a type of herpes virus. It is contracted by contact with actual lesions or by respiratory secretions and there is a 10-21 day incubation period during which your child is developing the illness but does not show any symptoms and is not contagious (until the very last 1 or 2 days before the pox appear.). Once the vesicles show up there are likely to be many more on the way for between 3 and 7 more days and your child is contagious throughout this whole period until there are no new lesions for at least 24 hours and the old lesions are dry or scabbed. This virus is unusual in several ways, one way being that it settles into areas of the nervous system and then potentially can reactivate as a localized painful rash that follows a nerve path. This is known as herpes zoster (also referred to as Shingles) and it is spread to anyone who has never had chicken pox only by direct contact with the lesions (not by the respiratory route like the original chicken pox infection). Zoster often occurs in elderly or run down or immune compromised people and is not the result of exposure to a child with chicken pox – it is a reactivation of one’s own previous chicken pox infection, usually from as far back as childhood. This becomes important to families when young children with chicken pox are scheduled to visit grandparents and parents are concerned that their elderly parents will “catch” pox from the grandchildren.

Most children with chicken pox are at least mildly uncomfortable from the itchy nature of the pox. Using soothing lotions and cool baths is helpful as is keeping the fingernails short and antihistamines available for the worst nights. Many over the counter bath solutions claim to help dry the pox and certainly make the itching milder but be careful to only gently pat dry the rash so as not to irritate the skin or spread virus particles to others. Keeping cool and clean is very helpful for the comfort and safety of the child with pox. Keeping entertained is another matter and some families have combined their sick children to keep each other company. The risk of increasing the exposure for other siblings and for spreading secondary bacterial infection between the children make this a poor idea in general. Besides, sick children need to rest and be encouraged to drink more fluids instead of becoming more active during the illness. Staying out of doors and away from sun exposure also decreases the chance of severe itching and scarring. Most children are back in school in a week or so and have many fellow students to compare notes with. This is a very common and usually manageable childhood illness.


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