Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease that is caused by a herpesvirus called varicella-zoster virus (7). Chickenpox is one of the most easily transmitted of contagious diseases (5). Ninety to ninety-five percent of the people exposed to the virus will develop it within twenty-one days (5). The term chickenpox came from chickpea, which is a member of the bean family and resembles the look of the swollen pox, or from the Old English gican, meaning “to itch” (7).
Before chickenpox was classified as a disease it was confused with other similar diseases such as smallpox, measles, German measles, and scarlet fever. They all had a typical rash, and they were known as acute exanthems or “a disease characterized by an eruption or rash, from the Latin and Greek word exanthema, meaning ‘to break out,’ or, originally, ‘to bloom.’” Many people were misdiagnosed due to the similarities between these diseases, and the fact that they can occur in milder or more sever forms leading to an overlap of the most obvious symptoms. (7)
Chickenpox mostly occurs in children classifying it as a childhood disease although it can occur in adults who are not yet immune to it. This could lead to the belief of chickenpox being one of the oldest diseases. Since the chickenpox infection has two phases, one most common during childhood then a latent form that can become active again later in the persons life, doctors believe that this reactivation would start the cycle all over again. If everyone in the first cycle got the germ then became immune a whole new generation would be born by the time the virus “reawakened” to become infectious in the new generation. This causes the suspicion of chickenpox being one of the oldest diseases. (7)
Chickenpox can infect everyone and anyone throughout the world (7). More than three million Americans mostly children between the ages of two and eight are affected every year (3). The virus is known for being mild, but if an adult or a child with a weak immune system catches it it could become serious (3). “It kills between fifty and a hundred people every year.” (3) Almost 10,000 people are hospitalized each year for complications with the disease (4). The complications range from serious, which can include secondary skin infections, to fatal such as Reye syndrome (4).
This common disease is highly contagious and easily transmitted through the air by sneezing or coughing, or by coming in direct contact with the infected person. Epidemics occur mostly during the winter and early spring although a person can be infected at anytime. It is most easily spread through day cares, schools, and through members of a family. (7)
Chickenpox is part of the herpes family, which can produce two forms of illness. First there is the primary form which occurs when the person first contracts the disease. The virus remains in the body indefinitely, which can lead to the resurfacing of it again. This mostly happens when the body’s immune system is down and the...