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This common childhood disease has syptoms such as:

- Fever

- Weakness and fatigue

- a red, itchy rash

Caused by a herpes virus called ‘Varicella’ this disease is very contagious. When an infected person sneezes, coughs, or breathes, the virus enters the body through the mouth and nose transported on respiratory droplets. The virus begins to reproduce in the cells of the mucosal system. It quickly spreads to different parts of the body.

The rash that develops usually appears on the face, scalp, chest, back, and to a lesser extent, the arms and legs. Symptoms, like the rash, usually arrive approximately two weeks after initial infection, although the carrier can transmit the disease before that time. The rash, in the form of ’spots’ fill with a clear fluid and burst, sometimes causing scars, or bacterial infection. The spots continue to break out from one to five days, so they may appear on the body in different stages.

The fever and malaise common in children with the disease is more serious in adults. Varicella can also cause ‘Shingles’ in adults. When people with suppressed immune systems are infected, the disease can become quite serious. If a pregnant woman contracts the disease during the first or second trimester there may be a congenital birth defect. If the disease is contracted within five days of birth the child risks being infected seriously with the disease and should be vaccinated immediately. The disease usually runs its course within two weeks, leaving the person infected healthy, as well as immune to any further infection from the same virus.

There is a vaccine for this disease called ‘Varicella-zoster immune globulin’, and a medicine called ‘Acyclovir’, a common viral medication, can be used to treat patients with severe cases, or suppressed immune systems. It is best to isolate the infected to prevent the spread of the disease. To avoid infection, always keep the skin clean, and antihistamines as well as cool, wet compresses can be used to releive itching. Complications, like pneumonia, may arise, especially in older people, and these are treated according to symptoms.

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