On the 94th birth anniversary of  Dr Michiaki Takahashi, who first developed the chickenpox vaccine, Google dedicated a special graphic doodle to the Japanese virologist, created by guest artist Tatsuro Kiuchi.

On the occasion, lets understand more about the contagious infection — the symptoms, causes, risk factors, prevention, and treatment.

Here’s all you need to know about chickenpox

What is it and what causes it?

According to Mayoclinic.org, chickenpox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It can spread when a person with chickenpox coughs or sneezes and you inhale the air droplets. It is visible as an itchy rash with small, fluid-filled blisters. It is said to be highly contagious to people who haven’t had the disease or been vaccinated against it. “It leads to itchy skin rash which is called as pleomorphic rash (has all stages of rash like macular papules, vesicles) in adults and children. These rashes will be seen all over the body, except arms and legs are not affected as much,” said Dr Vikrant Shah, consulting physician, intensivist and infection disease specialist, Zen Multispeciality Hospital Chembur.

Symptoms

Itchy blister rashes caused by chickenpox infection appear 10 to 21 days after exposure to the virus and usually last about five to 10 days. According to Dr Shah, one may notice red flags like rashes, fever, sore throat, abdominal pain, bumps with liquid, tiredness, itching, pain, burning of the skin, poor appetite, blotchy skin, and headache.

Risk factors

According to mayoclinic.org, the disease is generally mild in healthy children. In severe cases, the rash can cover the entire body, and lesions may form in the throat, eyes, and mucous membranes of the urethra, anus and vagina.

What to do if infected

“You shouldn’t delay the treatment, once you notice the signs,” advised Dr Shah. Patients who have chickenpox can help prevent transmission by quarantining themselves at home until all the blisters have dried and crusted over, stressed Dr Dilip Gude, consultant physician, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad.

Treatment

A vaccine is available that protects children against chickenpox. Dr Shah added that antiviral medicines can help those having chickenpox. You need to hydrate yourself well. Do not self-medicate as it can be risky. As per Dr Gude, drugs like oral Acyclovir, Famciclovir and Valacyclovir need to be started as soon as possible to minimise viral replication. Topical Acyclovir also may help. In addition, analgesics and antihistaminics for reducing pain and itching may be prescribed.

Prevention

The best possible way to prevent chicken pox is to get the Varicella vaccine which is fully safe, said Dr Gude. “Those who take the chickenpox vaccine will not get chickenpox. And if they get chickenpox, the symptoms will be mild,” said Dr Shah.

Precautions

Dr Shah mentioned that one should opt for a cool compress and bathe in lukewarm water. “Do not scrub the body or rub it too hard, use lotions or creams as per the doctor’s advice, avoid scratching, do not pop the blisters. Eat bland foods if you have chickenpox in the mouth, drink enough water to avoid dehydration, and wear loose clothes,” Dr Shah told indianexpress.com.

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