Interesting Facts about Chickenpox

Chickenpox is an illness caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which causes an eruption of blisters, usually on the upper body and face. It is a very contagious infection and easily spreads from person to person. Chickenpox is more common in children than adults, although adults can get it, too.

There are vaccines out there for the prevention of chickenpox. However, if you have already been diagnosed with this disease, there is nothing to worry about, as chickenpox usually does not cause any serious complications. Here are some interesting facts about chickenpox that will leave you amazed.

1. Chickenpox May Cause Around 250-500 Blisters

The most common sign of the virus is that the patient develops a rash that, with time, turns into fluid-filled blisters, which eventually turn into scabs. Rashes may first appear in the chest, face, and back, slowly spreading all over the body. They can also appear inside the mouth or eyelids. Blisters usually take one week to turn into scabs, causing around 250-500 itchy blisters. [1]

2. Chickenpox is More Lethal towards Adults

Chickenpox is seen to be more lethal towards adults, as much so that it’s 25 times more fatal towards adults than children. The complications and symptoms caused by the virus are also more serious in the case of adults. The risk of the disease increases significantly during pregnancy. [2]

If a pregnant woman gets chickenpox, it is likely that the child will be of low weight or have issues with its limbs. It is even more lethal if the disease is transmitted a few days before the delivery, as it makes it even more life-threatening for the infant.

Other people at risk include infants, adolescents, people with HIV, people that have gone through transplants, or those on chemotherapy or using steroids.

3. Chickenpox Can Lead to Death

People experience serious effects of the virus, which can cause them to end up in the hospital. It can go as far as the patient dying; however, this is rare due to the use of vaccines. [3]

Common complications experienced by patients include:

  • Infections of the skin and soft tissues.
  • Pneumonia (infection of the lungs)
  • Encephalitis, cerebellar ataxia (Swelling of infection of the brain)
  • Bleeding issues
  • Dehydration

 Patients need to stay out of contact at all times while experiencing chickenpox.

4. The US Experiences Millions of Varicella Virus Cases Every Year

Every year the United States experiences more than 3.5 million cases of chickenpox, with 9,000 of the cases needing to be treated in hospitals. [4] 

However, this number was higher in the early 1990s, when the average number of cases was 4 million, and 10,500-13,000 people were hospitalized, causing 100-150 deaths each year.

5. Chickenpox and the Varicella Zoster Virus 

Chickenpox is a condition caused by the Varicella Zoster Virus, an infection that can be transmitted through the air or by touching an infected person. If your skin is experiencing rashes and those rashes cause red blisters on the surface of your skin, chances are that you may have “Chickenpox.” 

The infection goes away after several days, after the blisters pop and leak. It’s known to mainly affect kids but can be encountered by adults. 

6. Two Doses of the Varicella Vaccine is 90% Effective against the Virus

The varicella vaccine was created to cope with the increasing number of chickenpox patients. Since March 1995, over 6 million doses of the vaccine have been given. Completing two doses of the vaccine is 90% effective in tackling the disease. [5]

7. Children 13 or Below Should Get 2 Doses of the Varicella Vaccine

The first at the age of 12 through 15 months, and the second at age 4 through 6 months. The recommended amount of doses for people over the age of 13 is 2 and should be given 28 days apart. 

8. The Varicella Vaccine was developed in 1974

The Varicella vaccine was developed by a Japanese scientist, Michiaki Takahashi, in 1974. It has been available in the US since 1995.

Fatalities have decreased since the introduction of the vaccine. Even after getting vaccinated, there is a little chance that you may still encounter the disease. However, it will have mild symptoms with little or no filters this time. Before getting vaccinated, you must get a consultation from a professional.

9. Chickenpox Can Be Simply Transmitted By Breathing in the Particles from the Blisters

This disease is easily transmitted from one person to another. The virus is transmitted by simply breathing in the particles coming from the blisters. It is also seen to be transmitted by simply coming in contact with someone carrying the particles. 

The virus is most effective 1-2 days before the rashes appear on the skin until all the blisters have dried.

10. The Chickenpox Virus Stays In Your Body Permanently

Once you have completely cured your chickenpox, you might think it’s over! However, we’ve got some bad news! The virus doesn’t completely leave your body; instead, some of it stays in a part of your spinal nerve called the “dorsal root ganglion.” [6]

11. You can Have Chickenpox More Than Once

It is one of the biggest misconceptions that chickenpox only appears once. This is not the case as the virus can re-appear in the future, but most probably in different areas than in the previous occasion. People who encounter shingles are those who wave a weak immune system, are over the age of 50, have been ill, or remain under stress.

12. The Varicella Virus is also seen in Primates

This virus is mainly known to occur in humans; however, some cases suggest that the virus has also reached the animal kingdom. Most notably, animal groups known as primates, including mammals like gorillas, monkeys, and chimpanzees, also encounter this issue. [7]

13. The Rashes Last On Your Body for an Average of 3-5 Weeks

It normally takes around 3 to 5 weeks from the time you catch the disease till the rashes disappear. Here is the order of the experience:

  • Before the rash appears on the skin, you feel pain in the affected area. It is like the feeling of a burn, itch, or a stab.
  • Then a rash starts to appear on the affected area as a patch. These patches usually appear on one side of the body, like the waistline, face, neck, or chest/back.
  • 3-4 days go by, and the rashes turn into red, painful, fluid-filled blisters.
  • After 10 days, the blisters begin to dry.
  • 2-3 weeks later, the scabs clear up, leaving your skin to heal.

14. Anti-bodies of the Vaccine Last For About 10-20 Years

Studies have shown that the person getting vaccinated for varicella had anti-bodies that lasted for 10-20 years. However, such studies took place before the vaccine was widely available and used.

Another case study from 1997-to 2003 gave out results that one dose of the vaccine had 97% effectiveness in the first year after the vaccination and 86% in the second year. Moving forward from the second to the eighth year, the vaccine’s effectiveness remained constant at 80%-86%. [8]

15. You Won’t Contact Shingles if You Haven’t Experienced chickenpox

If you haven’t experienced chickenpox, you won’t get shingles. However, an important thing to remember is that chickenpox can be transmitted from a person experiencing shingles right now. This is because the virus is transmitted when you get in contact with the rash and oozing experienced by a patient, which will cause you to develop the disease.

16. A Major Cause of Shingles is Stress

One of the biggest reasons people develop shingles is stress, so naturally, fighting stress can help you protect against shingles. You can do so by maintaining a healthy diet, healthy weight, exercising regularly, sleeping seven to eight hours every day, and avoiding smoking.

17. Before the Advent of Chickenpox Vaccine

Before the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine in 1995, about 4 million people got chickenpox each year in the United States. Of these cases, 10,600 were hospitalized, and 100 to 150 died as a result of complications from chickenpox.

18. The Name “Chickenpox”

The name “chickenpox” comes from the Latin word for chicken, “gallus.” It refers to the characteristic spots that resemble little chickpeas.

19. The Incubation Period for Chickenpox

The time from when someone is exposed to VZV until symptoms appear is called the incubation period. The incubation period for chickenpox is about 14 to 16 days after exposure to someone with chickenpox or shingles. A person with chickenpox is contagious beginning 1 to 2 days before rash onset until all the chickenpox lesions have crusted over (usually 5 to 7 days after rash onset). [9]

20. Chickenpox was distinguished in the 19th century

A vaccine for chickenpox was not available until the end of the 19th century. In 1875, Rudolf Steiner demonstrated that chickenpox was caused by an infectious agent through a simple experiment: he inoculated some people with vesicular fluid from a patient with the disease.

Conclusion

Chickenpox is an illness of the past. Thanks to the amazing vaccine, most of us will never know how miserable it can be. However, the disease is still relatively common, with many preventative measures still being taken by parents. Though the disease may appear to be somewhat anecdotal in this day and age, it continues to pose problems for susceptible children and their families.

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/index.html 
  2. https://www.medicinenet.com/why_is_it_bad_for_adults_to_get_chickenpox/article.htm
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/complications.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/index.html
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/vaccination.html 
  6. https://www.pnas.org/content/95/8/4658
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2703154 
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/varicella/hcp/about-vaccine.html
  9. https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/hcp/index.html 
  10. https://www.webmd.com/children/what-is-chickenpox
  11. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/varicella/index.html 
  12. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/varicella/public/index.html 
  13. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11036-shingles 
  14. https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/symptoms.html