• Reducing Your Risk of Chickenpox

    If you have already had chickenpox, you have developed an immunity to it and are very unlikely to get it a second time. However, since the chickenpox virus remains in the body, hiding in spinal nerve cells, some adults will develop a localized recurrence of chickenpox known has herpes zoster or “ shingles ”.
    To avoid getting chickenpox at all, you should:
    1. Avoid contact with people who have it.
    2. Avoid sharing personal items with people infected with the illness.
    3. Get a chickenpox vaccination .

    Chickenpox Vaccine

    The chickenpox vaccine, a series of two injections, is routinely given to children at ages:
    • 12-15 months
    • 4-6 years
    Children who have not been vaccinated and have not been exposed to chickenpox can also receive the series.
    In addition, the vaccine should be given to adults who do not have immunity to chickenpox. Talk to your doctor, though, because if you have certain conditions, you will not be able to have this vaccine.
    The vaccine can also reduce your risk of infection if given within three days of exposure to chicken pox.

    Immune Globulin

    If you are unable to receive the varicella vaccine because you are at high risk, if exposed to chickenpox, you might be able to receive immune globulin. Immune globulin is a blood product that contains antibodies to the chickenpox virus.
    For prevention, immune globulin is given by injection immediately after exposure to the VZV virus (within 96 hours). It is usually only given to people who are at unusually high risk for severe complications from the disease. These may include:
    • Adults including pregnant women
    • Newborns whose mothers have chickenpox
    • People who are immunosuppressed or very ill

    Preventing the Spread of Chickenpox

    If someone in your household gets chickenpox, you can prevent it from spreading by:
    • Keeping them isolated until the disease runs its course and all blisters have crusted over
    • Informing others (including parents of other children) who have been in recent contact with your child that they may have been exposed to chickenpox

    References

    American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.familydoctor.org/ .

    Baker CJ, Pickerling LK, Chilton L, et al. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, 2011. Ann Intern Med. 2011;154(3):168-173.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0-18 years—United States, 2011. MMWR. 2011;60(5).

    DynaMed Editorial Team. Varicella. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated November 5, 2010. Accessed November 11, 2010.

    Mayo Clinic. Chicken pox. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pneumonia/DS00135/DSECTION=causes . Updated September 3, 2010. Accessed November 11, 2010.

    The Merck Manual of Medical Information. 17th ed. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster; 2000.

    National Centers for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod .

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