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Chicken Pox

Chicken pox, also spelled chickenpox, is a common childhood disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), also known as human herpes virus 3 (HHV-3), one of the eight herpesviruses known to affect humans. It is characterized by a fever followed by itchy raw pox or open sores.

chicken pox symptoms

Symptoms of chicken pox are rarely fatal: if it does cause death, it is usually from varicella pneumonia, which occurs more frequently in pregnant women. In the US, 55% of chicken pox deaths were in the over-20 age group. Chicken pox has a two week incubation period and is highly contagious by air transmission two days before symptoms appear. Therefore chicken pox spreads quickly through schools and other places of close contact. Once someone was infected with the disease, they usually develop an immunity and cannot get it again. As the disease is more severe if contracted by an adult, parents have been known to ensure that their children became infected before adulthood. Aspirin shouldn't be used during a chickenpox infection because it can increase the incidence of a potentially deadly condition called Reye's syndrome.

Doctors advise that pregnant women who come into contact with chickenpox should contact their doctor immediately as the virus can cause serious problems for the fetus.

Later in life, virus remaining in the nerves can develop into the painful disease, shingles, particularly in people with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly, and perhaps even sunburn. A chicken pox vaccine is now available, and is now required in some countries for children to be admitted into elementary school. In addition, effective medications (e.g., acyclovir) are available to treat chicken pox in healthy and immunocompromised persons.

history of chicken pox

One history of medicine book claims that Giovanni Filippo (1510 - 1580) of Palermo gave the first description of varicella (chicken pox). Subsequently in the 1600s, an English physician named Richard Morton described what he thought was a mild form of smallpox as "chicken pox." Later, in 1767, a physician named William Heberden, also from England, was the first physician to clearly demonstrate that chicken pox was different from smallpox. However, it is believed that the name chicken pox was commonly used in earlier centuries before doctors knew what they were seeing.

There are many explanations offered for the origin of the name chicken pox, from the idea that the specks that appeared looked as though the skin was picked by chickens to that the disease was named after chick peas, from a supposed resemblance of the seed to the lesions. The simplest explanation is probably that offered by Samuel Johnson, that the disease was "no very great danger" thus a "chicken" version of the pox. And as "pox" also means curse, in medieval times for many countries (China, Northern and Southern Europe, South Africa, Ireland) it was believed to be a plague brought on to curse children by the use of black magic. During these early medieval times the discovery of oatmeal helping to aid the sores was also discovered. Chicken pox affects kids mostly under the age of 15 but in some cases adults have been known to get them.

Posted by Staff at May 17, 2005 3:39 AM

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Comments Archive

Could you explain more of the symptoms how can you prevent them from happening.

There is no known way to prevent them, short of simply avoiding all people with Chicken Pox.

Posted by: Ebony at December 26, 2005 7:48 PM

You are a great medical symptoms database.
can you give me a citation about this database As soon as possible because i am doing a report on chicken pox and i need a citation with the copyright date, the place of publication, the publishing company, the apge number, and the web site address.

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Posted by: Ronald Lee at June 12, 2006 12:22 PM

can chicken pox cause itching before an outbreak? and what treatment is available?

Posted by: Kimberly at October 23, 2006 1:57 PM

Veteran actor William Franklyn, known for voicing the 1960s Schweppes TV adverts, dies aged 81...

Posted by: Aaron Judge at November 13, 2006 2:20 AM

I am 62 years old and the doctor told me have chicken pox. My granddaugher is due to have a baby any minute is the baby at risk?, mother had chicken pox.

Posted by: Roberta Bland at November 15, 2006 11:00 PM