Medicine

Chicken pox remains a potent threat

It is not as if the summer has passed this year. The sun blazes down relentlessly during the day, even if rains provide welcome relief on some evenings.

And among the bugs you have to beware of this season is one that comes with a fancy moniker – Varicella zoster. It is the villain of chicken pox.

There is not much you can do about prevention, if indeed Varicella zoster has already come a calling.

But how many of you are aware that there is a vaccine available, albeit a little expensive, that is best taken when there is no epidemic in the air?

“The vaccine, which costs between Rs.1,500 and Rs.1,600 per shot, has been proven to be quite effective in preventing a chicken pox infection,” says Rex Sargunam, paediatrician.

Lack of awareness

One shot is sufficient, but for a variety of reasons, people are either not aware about the vaccine, or are reluctant to take it, public health experts point out. “What people do not realise is that if you get chicken pox once in childhood, it gives you life-long immunity. However, if you do not, then there are chances you get it as an adult, and in a more severe form.

The vaccine is a guarantee against it.” Dr. Rex explains.

However, the vaccine loses its potency if administered during an epidemic, says P.Kuganantham, infectious diseases expert.

Pregnant mothers, people who are planning to undergo a surgery, and those planning to start a family would be well advised to take the vaccine, he adds.

Lifestyle changes

Also, he points out, some lifestyle changes have to be made if a person is infected. The infectious phase begins from the onset of fever, right through to rash formation, and gradually wanes as it takes the vesicle or blister stage.

Absolute seclusion of the patient is essential, to ensure the virus is not spread.

Even those within the home, in contact with the patient, should be put on a short-term dose of acyclovir (used to treat chicken pox), Dr. Kuganantham says.

Reducing severity

This not only reduces the severity of the disease, but also reduces the chances of infection.

Also, since the virus enters through the nose and affects the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract by destroying the mucous membrane and epithelial tissues, it is recommended that patients take a dosage of vitamin A too.

One more strict no-no is watching television or reading books, as this would increase the chances of the virus spreading to the conjunctiva and affecting the eyes.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 1:43:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/medicine-and-research/chicken-pox-remains-a-potent-threat/article2091459.ece

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