Chickenpox can be fatal, says paediatrician

Dr. Mamman Ibrahim, a paediatrician at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, on Wednesday said that chickenpox was a common illness, which appeared harmless but could be fatal.

Ibrahim told the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja that though chickenpox was most common in children, adults could also contract it.

According to him, people get chickenpox at some point in their lives, if they have not had the vaccine.

He said: “Common symptoms include nausea, fever, cough, catarrh and presence of a particular rash, while transmission is by droplets or direct contact which causes red, itchy skin rash.

“It also causes red spots or blisters (pox) that usually appear first on the abdomen or back and face, then spreads to almost everywhere else on the body.”

According to Ibrahim, chickenpox can cause problem for pregnant women, newborns, teens, adults and people with low immune system.

He said: “An infected person can infect others two to three days before onset of rash and three days after appearance of the rash.

“The rashes are itchy, usually with pox and form blisters about day four of the infection and they are of two types, internal rash and external rash.”

According to Ibrahim, he said the rash may be more extensive or severe in kids who have skin disorders like eczema or weak immune systems.

He added: “Young kids tend to have a mild illness with fewer blisters than older children or adults and in rare cases, serious bacterial infections involving the skin and the brain can occur.

“Chickenpox usually is not a serious health problem in healthy children but a child with the infection needs to be kept away from school till the infection clears.”

Ibrahim advised that mothers should ensure their children were fully immunised and also ensure their children were separated from those infected.

He said mothers who had more than one child should separate the uninfected ones from the infected.

“You may need to stay home from work to care for the child,” he said.

The doctor said that after one might have had chickenpox, one might likely not get it again but the virus would stay in the body long after one got over the illness.

He said: “Children can be protected from the virus by getting the chickenpox vaccine.

“This will significantly reduce the chances of getting chickenpox.

“Vaccinated children who do get chickenpox tend to have milder cases and quicker recoveries, compared to those who contract the virus and were not immunised.”

Ibrahim said vaccination was usually at two years of age with booster dose later in life and when the virus becomes active again, it could cause painful viral infection called shingles.

He said that late complication of chicken pox called shingles resulted from a dominant varicella virus, which usually became active later in life.

He, therefore, encouraged parents to ensure that their children were immunised against chickenpox infection for a healthy life style.