Chickenpox Immunization

North Vancouver Travel Clinic

What is chickenpox?

Chickenpox, or varicella, is a viral infection characterized by itchy red blisters that spread all over the body. The virus responsible for this disease is known as the Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV).

Most commonly, chickenpox affects children, and it’s extremely rare to witness this infection twice since the body develops a powerful immune memory to the antigens.

 

The transmission and predisposition to chickenpox

The primary route of chickenpox transmission is being in contact with a sick patient (e.g., saliva, sneezing, coughing). Children become contagious 48 hours before the skin rash occurs.

All children who get into contact with chickenpox-positive patients are at risk of developing this condition.

Here are some factors that increase this risk:

  • Age (under 12 years old)

  • Childcare and crowded facilities

  • Immunosuppression (e.g., chemotherapy, immunosuppressant drugs)

 

Signs and symptoms of chickenpox?

Chickenpox presents with a classic itchy rash that covers large areas of the body. Typically, the infection resides within the child’s body for a period of 7-21 days before it becomes clinically apparent.

Aside from the classic clinical presentation, chickenpox could present with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Fever

  • Headaches

  • Anorexia (i.e., loss of appetite)

Patients with chickenpox take around 14 days before the rash and blisters disappear completely.

How is it treated?

The main focus of chickenpox therapy revolves around symptomatic treatment, as there is no curative drug against this infection.  Sick children and adults must stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus.

Some commonly used medications include antihistamines and topical ointments to reduce itching in affected areas.

Taking lukewarm baths, wearing soft clothing, and applying unscented lotion all help in reducing skin irritation and itching.

In case of complications, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to lower the risk of long term sequela.

Prevention of chickenpox

Similar to other viral infections, the primary way to prevent chickenpox is by taking the vaccine that prepares your immune system for the potential infection.

By allowing your immune system to be in contact with the antigens of the virus, antibodies and immune cells will get produced, which provides protection in the case of future varicella infection.

How effective is the vaccine?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 82% of children who received the chickenpox vaccine become immune to this infection.

Moreover, 100% of these children will not develop serious complications from the varicella infection.

Side effects of the vaccine

Many parents worry about the side effects of the chickenpox vaccine; however, researchers confirmed the safety of this substance throughout hundreds of clinical trials and laboratory experiments.

With that being said, the chickenpox vaccine could lead to mild adverse effects, manifesting as:

  • Soreness, swelling, and redness around the site of injection

  • A mild rash

  • Fever

  • Stomach pain and diarrhea

 

The scheduling of the vaccine

According to the CDC, children should get the chickenpox vaccine between the ages of 12 to 15 months.

The secondary shot (i.e., booster) is scheduled between 4 and 6 years of age. In B.C., the chickenpox vaccine is provided for free to children as part of their routine childhood vaccinations. For adults, the vaccine is provided for free for individuals who have clinical evidence that they have no immunity to chickenpox. Please contact us at 604-971-5163 if you have any questions about the administration of the vaccine.

**The information on this website is only for general informational purposes only and may not be extensive. The information does not, and is not intended to be used to provide travel-related health advice.

References:

http://www.CDC.com

https://www.GSK.com

https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/bc-immunization-schedules

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