Why vaccination against chickenpox is important | Knowledge & Environment | DW

Chickenpox is common worldwide. They are caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), a herpes virus, and are transmitted by droplet infection. This means that the viruses are passed on when we sneeze, cough or speak because they are in the air we breathe. chickenpox are extremely contagious.

The best protection is one Vaccination. This has reduced the number of cases worldwide. For example, in Germany in 2004 around 750,000 children and adults contracted chickenpox. In 2017, only 22,200 cases were registered.

What is the course of chickenpox?

The first symptoms that indicate a possible infection with chickenpox are headaches, body aches and fatigue. Some also have an elevated temperature.

The typical itchy rash develops later. This shows up as small red spots and nodules that eventually become blisters filled with fluid. In the beginning this is still clear, but it is becoming increasingly cloudy. The rash usually appears on the face first and then moves to the back and stomach, but can also spread over the entire body as it progresses.

After a few days, scabs form on the individual blisters, which fall off by themselves after a short time. It makes sense to wait and see. Scratching the severely itchy blisters is not a good idea because it can result in infection and scarring. Chickenpox, while uncomfortable, is extremely rare in otherwise healthy children.

Chickenpox in children usually clears up within two weeks. Adults, on the other hand, often have a more severe course of the disease, which also lasts longer.

How is chickenpox treated?

There is no specific medication for chickenpox. The only way to alleviate the effects of the condition a little is to use ointments to counteract the severe itching. Moist compresses can be applied to cool the body a little and thus relieve the itching at least temporarily. The fingernails of small children should be kept short so that they do not scratch the skin and become infected.

Who is particularly at risk?

Children between the ages of two and ten are infected with chickenpox. But even infants can get chickenpox.

Most adults are immune to chickenpox because they have previously contracted the virus or have been vaccinated against the virus. If pregnant women do not meet these requirements and they get caught, it can be quite dangerous for the unborn child. It is particularly risky if the expectant mother becomes infected during the first 24 weeks of her pregnancy. Then a miscarriage can occur or the unborn child can suffer various damages. This is the case with the so-called varicella syndrome (CVS), which can lead to malformations of the limbs or, in the worst case, to brain damage.

After the 24th week of pregnancy, there are no longer any effects to be feared in the event of an infection. It only becomes critical again shortly before birth. If the pregnant woman falls ill during this time, the baby is also infected in a quarter of the cases. Women who want to have a child and plan accordingly should be vaccinated about three months in advance.

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How to prevent?

The most sensible solution is of course vaccination in childhood, which protects against infection.

The chickenpox virus is sneaky, because after surviving an infection it stays dormant in the bodyeven if the chickenpox has healed.

You are then immune to chickenpox, but not to the dreaded chickenpox because it is painful shingles, which is caused by herpes zoster. This is a so-called endogenous recurrence, a renewed infection. This can occur after many years or decades. The course is much more dramatic than that of chickenpox. But you can still get vaccinated against shingles at a later age.

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