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Thailand health officials report chickenpox outbreak, more than 2,500 cases seen in January

The Ministry of Public Health has reported that more than 2,500 cases of chickenpox were found last month while advising the public to be wary of an outbreak of the disease until March.

Permanent Secretary for Public Health Dr Narong Sahamethapat stated that the cool weather during January-March of every year was conducive to the spread of varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox. He thus encouraged all to be on guard against the highly communicable disease as anyone with low immunity could be infected, especially children under the age of 1.

Based on statistics in January, up to 2,565 patients were diagnosed with chickenpox during the first 19 days of the month. Last year, more than 48,000 cases were reported, most of which were among children aged between 5 and 9, followed by 4-year-olds and under.

chicken poxDr Narong said he had instructed public health offices nationwide to disseminate knowledge about chickenpox and preventive practices to the people. As the virus can be transmitted through physical contact and breathing, special attention should be paid to shared spaces like schools and childcare centers.

In children, initial symptoms usually include low fever, fatigue and loss of appetite while adults would experience high fever, body aches, skin rashes and blisters. If any of the symptoms are detected, medical attention should be sought immediately in a bid to prevent an outbreak.

Chickenpox is a common, usually benign childhood disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), a member of the herpes family. This virus causes two distinct diseases; varicella (chickenpox) is the primary infection, and later when VSV reactivates,herpes zoster (shingles).

Chickenpox is highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing, by direct contact and by aerosolization of the virus from skin lesions. You can also get it by contact with the vesicle secretions from shingles.

The disease is characterized by fever and a red, itchy skin rash of that usually starts on the abdomen, back or face and then spreads to nearly all parts of the body. The rash begins as small red bumps that appear as pimples or insect bites. They then develop into thin-walled blisters that are filled with clear fluid which collapse on puncture. The blisters then breaks, crusts over, and leaves dry brown scabs.

The chickenpox lesions may be present in several stages of maturity and are more abundant on covered skin rather than exposed. Lesions may also be found in the mouth, upper respiratory tract and genitals.

Chickenpox is contagious from 1-2 days before the rash forms and continues until all the lesions are crusted over (usually about 5 days).

This disease is more serious in adults than in children. Complications of chickenpox are rare, but include pneumonia, encephalitis and secondary bacterial infections.

Infection with this virus usually gives lifelong immunity, although second attacks have been documented in immunocompromised people. The viral infection remains latent, and disease may recur years later as shingles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the chickenpox vaccine is the best protection against chickenpox. The vaccine is made from weakened varicella virus that produces an immune response in your body that protects you against chickenpox. The chickenpox vaccine was licensed for use in the United States in 1995

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