What is varicella (chickenpox)? How did it originate?
Varicella, commonly known as chickenpox, is an infection caused by the varicella zoster virus. It is highly contagious, spreading in a similar way to flu, and causes a blister-like rash on the skin. It is not life-threatening but can cause complications.
What are the symptoms of chickenpox?
After between 1 and 3 weeks of being exposed to the chickenpox virus, red spots start to appear on the skin. The spots fill with fluid, and may burst, and then scab over and become itchy. In the meantime, spots may spread to other parts of the body.
Other symptoms include fever, muscles aches and pains, and a loss of appetite. Symptoms are usually worse for adults than children.
You are infectious from 2 days before spots appear until they have crusted over, which is usually 5 days after they appear.
How is chickenpox transmitted?
Chickenpox is highly contagious and you can catch it just by being in the same room as someone infected with it. You can also catch it from the fluid in the blisters, for example by touching bedding or clothing.
What is the transmission seasonality?
Chickenpox is a seasonal disease, and most cases occur in winter and spring. There is often a peak between March and May, although this has been less noticeable in recent years.
What are the infected areas in the world?
The chickenpox virus is common in the UK and most children catch it at some point.
What is a chickenpox certificate?
A chickenpox vaccination certificate proves you have been vaccinated against the disease.
Is chickenpox curable?
Talk to your doctor about treatment options. Medication is recommended for patients with chickenpox who are at risk of developing complications from the disease, including:
- patients over 12 years of age, who are otherwise healthy
- people with chronic lung or skin disease
- people taking steroids
- pregnant people.
How can you prevent chickenpox?
The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine.
Chickenpox vaccine is very safe and effective at preventing the disease. Most people who get the vaccine will not get chickenpox. If a vaccinated person does get chickenpox, it is usually mild—with fewer red spots or blisters and mild or no fever. The chickenpox vaccine prevents almost all cases of severe disease.
How long before a trip do you have to get the chickenpox vaccine?
You should allow at least 4 weeks to ensure you complete the full schedule of 2 doses.
Who should get the chickenpox vaccine?
The chickenpox vaccine is recommended if you are in close contact with people who are at risk of complications from chickenpox. If you are a healthcare worker who is not immune to chickenpox, or if you have family or friends who don’t have a fully-working immune system, you are advised to get vaccinated so you can’t infect people. Laboratory workers in contact with the virus may also need to get vacccinated.
Who should not get the chickenpox vaccine?
The chickenpox vaccine is not suitable for people who are clinically immunosuppressed, either due to drug treatment or illness, as it could cause a serious complications. This includes babies whose mothers have had immunosuppressive treatment while they were pregnant or breastfeeding. See your GP for more information.
The vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women.
What is the minimum age requirement for the chickenpox vaccine?
The minimum age to get the chickenpox vaccine is 12 months.
What is the effectiveness of the chickenpox vaccine?
Two doses of the vaccine give about 98% protection in children and about 75% protection in teenagers and adults.
What are the side effects of the chickenpox vaccine?
The side effects you may experienmce depend on which of the two vaccines available in the UK you get.
As a guide, common side effects include redness, swelling and pain at the injection site, and a fever. Up to one in 10 people experience a rash similar to chickenpox, mild cold-like symptoms, irritability and itching at the injection site.
1 in 100 people experience more sever side effects, including:
- swollen glands, sore throat, headache, runny nose or cough
- Nausea and vomiting
- a blistering rash
- muscle or joint pain
- very high fever
- sleepiness, tiredness, or feeling unwell in general.
How many jabs are needed?
Two doses are given, at least 4 weeks apart. The exact spacing between doses depends on the brand of vaccine given and the age of the person receiving the vaccine.
How long does it last for?
One dose of the chickenpox vaccine offers a 90% protection rate for children, and it is slightly less effective for adults, at 75%. Two doses are recommended to ensure maximum protection.
When and where was the last outbreak of chickenpox?
Chickenpox is common and mostly affects children, although you can get it at any age.