Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chicken Pox

“When the itch is inside the boot, scratching outside provides little consolation”
-Chinese Proverbs
"Rachel got poison ivy on her brain. The only way she can scratch it is to think about sandpaper."
-Steven Wright
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some good news about chickenpox. Since the government first recommended the new pox vaccine for all children starting in 1995, deaths from chickenpox have fallen from 105 in 1990 to just 14 in 2007. Almost all the deaths were adults who suffered complications like skin infections, swelling of the brain and pneumonia. Severe cases are more common among teens and adults who get it for the first time late in life.

About 8 to 9 of every 10 people who are vaccinated are completely protected from chickenpox. In addition, the vaccine almost always prevents against severe disease. If a vaccinated person does get chickenpox, it is usually a very mild case lasting only a few days and involving fewer skin lesions (usually less than 50), mild or no fever, and few other symptoms.

"The disease is spread by coughing and sneezing (highly contagious), by direct contact, and by aerosolization of virus from skin lesions." Aerosolization? Sounds like the virus can leap off the skin and become airborne. I wonder if the pox pustuals rupture like a burst pimple?  My only exposure to chickenpox was at age 8 so my memory of the disease is patchy (but I do remember the itching and still bear a scare from one pox bump I scratched too much).

Bottom Line

All children and adults without evidence of immunity to varicella need the vaccine. Evidence of immunity includes any of the following:
  • Documentation of two doses of varicella vaccine
  • Blood tests that show you are immune to varicella or laboratory confirmation of prior disease
  • Born in the United States before 1980, excluding health-care workers, pregnant women, and immunocompromised persons.  These individuals need to meet one of the other criteria for evidence of immunity.  
  • Receipt from a healthcare provider of a) a diagnosis of chickenpox or b) verification of a history of chickenpox
  • Receipt from a healthcare provider of a) a diagnosis of herpes zoster (shingles), or b) verification of a history of herpes zoster (shingles).
You do NOT need the chickenpox vaccine, if you meet any of the above criteria for evidence of immunity.

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