Chicken Pox, also known as Varicella is a virulent disease caused by the Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV).
A Transmission Electron Micrograph (TEM) of the VZV.
VZV is a Group I (dsDNA) that only infects humans. It replicates in the nasopharynx and nearby lymph nodes becoming viremic, spreading to the other organs and the sensory nerve ganglia (where it becomes latent) before spreading to the skin, resulting in its characteristic red rash. Varicella is a primary infection that can cause opportunistic infections like bacterial pneumonia for immunocompromised individuals like infants and patients with HIV, Psoriasis and Lupus. Futhermore, VZV can be reactivated later in life when the immune system is weak, leading to shingles (Herpes-Zoster) and subsequently, postherpetic neuralgia and other neurological conditions.
Chicken pox is an airborne disease and infection can occur via:
- Aerosolized particles of the virus (Eg: droplets from someone infected that is coughing/sneezing)
- Direct contact with an infected person, be it Varicella or Shingles
- Coming into contact with an object that an infected person has interacted with, like a doorknob
The hallmark of Chicken Pox – red,itchy rashes all over the body.
Malaise (general feeling of discomfort), nausea, fever, muscle ache, a loss of appetite and red itchy rashes are some of the common symptoms experienced by the infected. Over time, the fluid-filled vesicles starts to dry out and crust over. Until then, the individual is still infectious.