Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral infection in which a person develops extremely itchy blisters all over the body and it is common childhood disease caused by a virus in the herpes family of viruses called the varicella virus. The varicella virus can remain in the body for decades and become active again in adults, causing herpes zoster (shingles). Shingles involves the occurrence of painful skin sores along the distribution of nerves across the trunk or face.
Itchy blisters on a red base, progressing to scabs, appear along with newer blisters, mainly on the trunk, face, and scalp and last 5 to 10 days. Other symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness and loss of appetite.
There are several things that can be done at home to help relieve the symptoms and prevent skin infections. Calamine lotion and colloidal oatmeal baths may help relieve some of the itching. Keeping fingernails trimmed short may help prevent skin infections caused by scratching blisters.
In the pre-vaccine era, approximately 350,000 varicella cases were estimated to occur each year in Canada. However, assessing the effect of varicella immunization programs on the incidence of varicella is difficult because varicella infections are significantly under-reported, less than 10% of the expected cases being reported through the Canadian Notifiable Disease Surveillance System (CNDSS) annually.