Since the chickenpox vaccine was introduced in the U.S. in 1995, the number of chickenpox cases has fallen by as much as 90 percent. But over the past two weeks, AdventHealth Centra Care locations have seen a 700% increase in patients with the virus – a startling jump.
Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness and fever. Chickenpox can be serious, especially in babies, adults and people with weakened immune systems. It spreads easily from infected people to others who have never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine. Chickenpox spreads in the air through coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from chickenpox blisters.
The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine. Some people who have been vaccinated against chickenpox can still get the disease. However, the symptoms are usually milder with fewer blisters and mild or no fever. For most people, getting chickenpox once provides immunity for life. Though it is not common, you can get chickenpox more than once.
Chickenpox most commonly lasts about 5-10 days. The classic symptom of chickenpox is a rash that turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters that eventually turn into scabs. The rash may first show up on the face, chest, and back then spread to the rest of the body, including inside the mouth, eyelids or genital area. It usually takes about one week for all the blisters to become scabs.
Call a healthcare provider if the infected person is older than 12 years of age, has a weakened immune system or is pregnant. Or if they develop any of the following:
- Fever that lasts longer than 4 days
- Fever that rises above 102°F (38.9°C)
- Any areas of the rash or any part of the body becomes very red, warm, or tender, or begins leaking pus, since these symptoms may indicate a bacterial infection
- Extreme illness
- Difficult waking up or confused demeanor
- Stiff neck
- Frequent vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
Once someone is infected, chickenpox cannot be stopped, but its symptoms can be treated. Cool baths and calamine lotion (which has special mineral oils that treat rashes, bumps, and bruises) can help people feel less itchy.
If you think you or your child has chickenpox, head to your closest Centra Care location. No appointment is needed.