The Importance of the Varicella Vaccination: How to Guard Against Chicken Pox
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is an airborne disease, and can be transmitted easily through coughs and sneezes of an infected person. A person who contracts chickenpox typically breaks out in blister-like, itchy rashes, and suffers from extreme tiredness and fever. The rash may continue to spread throughout the body for one or two days before the lesions begin to crust over. The virus can spread through contact with an open blister, as well.
Once the disease has completely run its course, it’s uncommon for a person to contract chickenpox again. Cases in children are much milder than those in otherwise healthy adults. Adults can also develop a secondary virus called shingles later in life.
Chickenpox and the Pregnant Woman
There are multiple dangers involved if a woman contracts chickenpox while pregnant. During the first six months of pregnancy, the fetus is in jeopardy.
If the fetus is exposed to the varicella infection, especially during the first 28 weeks of gestation, the child can be born with a variety of maladies. These include damage to the brain, eyes, or the spinal cord. The can also develop sever motor/sensory deficits, abnormal tendon reflexes, and hypoplasia of the upper and lower extremities.
Women who received the varicella vaccination in childhood are immune to chickenpox and cannot become infected.
The Importance of the Varicella Vaccination
The varicella or chickenpox vaccine is important to receive early in childhood, because it can almost guarantee protection for anyone who receives the vaccination from contracting the varicella virus. The vaccination is made from a live, but weakened or attenuated form of the virus. Harboring the virus in weakened form stimulates the immune system, therefore protecting the patient from contracting the virus.
Why Do People Need a Chickenpox Vaccine?
The varicella virus can be deadly in a small percentage of people. Prior to 1995, when the varicella vaccination became licensed in the United States, approximately 100 people died per year from the chickenpox virus. Over 11,000 people were hospitalized per year, as well.
Since 1995, the regular administration of the varicella vaccine resulted in a 70 to 90 percent decrease in the number of cases and complications from this disease, and continues to prevent people who are vaccinated against the risk for severe disease.
In the United States, pediatricians routinely recommend immunization for all of their young patients. Some European countries include the vaccine as part of the universal vaccinations in children. A second dose is recommended five (5) years after the initial immunization, as part of the routine vaccination process. If a child who has never been vaccinated contracts chickenpox, immunization within three days of exposure may improve their outcome.