The front of 5th Street School on a sunny day.

Chicken Pox

Chickenpox (varicella-zoster) is an acute viral illness of sudden onset characterized by mild fever, cough, fatigue, and a generalized eruption of the skin.  Each skin lesion begins as a small papule which becomes blister-like for three or four days, then leaves a granular scab.  Several crops of these vesicles will come out over a period of days, so that at any one time there will be lesions in various stages of development.  Lesions tend to be more abundant on the trunk than on exposed parts of the body and may appear on such areas as the micous membranes of the mouth, the scalp, and upper respiratory tract.  Transmission of this highly contagious disease is person-to-person spread, droplets, direct contact, or airborne spread of secretion of the respiratory tract, or indirectly through contaminated articles.

 

Herpes Zoster (shingles), caused by the same virus, is a localized vesicular eruption in someone previously infected with chickenpox.  It can also cause chickenpox to an exposed child, who has not had the disease previously.  Varicella in pregnant women can lead to congenital conditions to death in newborn.

 

INCUBATION PERIOD:

From 14 to 23 days, usually 14-16 days.

 

PERIOD OF COMMINICABILITY:

From 48 hours before the rash appears to 5 days after the onset of the rash, or until all vesicles have formed scabs or crusts.

 

CONTROL OF SPREAD:

1.     Exclusion of affected child from school for one week after the eruption first appears or until vesicles become dry-- 
            (crusted).

2.     Disposal of articles soiled with nose and throat discharges.
3.     Varicella zoster immune globulin (VZIG) may be given to some contacts at very high risk (see Health    
             Education).
4.     Acyclovir therapy may have some effect on the course of the disease.
 

 PREVENTION:

A vaccine has been developed and is available. Indiana State requirements include one varicella vaccine for grades 1 thru 5.  Two  varicella vaccines for Preschool, Kindergarten and grades 6 - 12 for the 2010 - 2011 school year.

 

HEALTH EDUCATION:

Persons at risk for serious infection of chickenpox include those adults and children with altered immunity, on immunosuppressive drugs, or with diseases such as HIV/AIDS, leukemia, or Hodgkin's Disease.  Aspirin should be avoided in chickenpox because it appears to increase the risk of Reye's Syndrome, a serious disorder that can lead to coma and death.  If a medicine to lower temperature or reduce discomfort is necessary, acetaminophen-containing medicines (like Tylenol) are preferred.