Immediate Release

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chickenpox Common Among Children Despite Vaccine

     The highly contagious varicella-zoster virus (VZV), commonly known as chickenpox, often affects children under age 12 and sometimes even after they have been vaccinated against the disease, Oneida County Health Department officials warned today following reports of an outbreak in Herkimer County .

     “Typically, chickenpox is a mild illness that causes an itchy rash that looks like blisters usually showing up on the abdomen or back then spreading all over the body and sometimes accompanied by flu-like symptoms,” said Nicholas A. DeRosa, Director of Health.  “Symptoms usually subside without treatment, but because the infection is highly contagious, an infected child should stay home and rest until the symptoms are gone.”

    Chickenpox is contagious from about 2 days before the rash appears and lasts until all the blisters are crusted over.  Children infected with chickenpox should be kept out of school until all blisters have dried, usually about a week.  If a parent is unsure about whether a child is ready to return to school he/she should consult their physician.          

     DeRosa says that in rare cases involving infants, teens and adults with weakened immune systems the illness could become more severe resulting in bacterial infections in the skin, lungs, bones, joints and brain (encephalitis).  He urged parents of children who have not been vaccinated to consult their health care provider about the varicella vaccine.  

     In order to keep chickenpox from spreading, DeRosa recommends:

·         Make sure children wash their hands frequently, particularly before eating and after using the bathroom.

·         Keep an infected child away from siblings as much as possible.

    Some ways of dealing with the symptoms of chickenpox are:

  • Use cool, wet compresses or lotion on itchy areas but never on the face especially near the eyes.
  • Never use aspirin to reduce pain or fever because aspirin has been associated with Reye syndrome which can lead to liver failure.  Use acetaminophen to help relieve pain.

    While most chickenpox infections require no special medical treatment DeRosa said you should consult a physician if your child:

  • Has a fever that lasts for more than 4 days or rises above 102 degrees.
  • Develops a severe cough or has trouble breathing.
  • Has a severe headache
  • Has difficulty walking
  • Seems confused
  • Has a stiff neck

     The Oneida County Health Department recommends you call your healthcare provider if you think your child has chickenpox, or if you’re concerned about possible complications.  A physician can guide you in watching for complications and in choosing medication to relieve the symptoms.

     For more information on chickenpox call the Oneida County Health Department at 798-6400 or visit our website at then click on ‘Health Department’ and then ‘Health Information.’