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Chickenpox

Symptoms Of Chickenpox, Treatment, Complications, Chickenpox And Environmental Factors, Immunity And The New Vaccine

Chickenpox, a disease characterized by skin lesions and low-grade fever, is common in the United States and other countries located in areas with temperate climates. The incidence of chickenpox is extremely high-almost everyone living in the United States contracts chicken-pox, usually during childhood, but sometimes in adulthood. In the United States, about 3.9 million people a year contract chickenpox. A highly contagious disease, chickenpox is caused by Varicella-Zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes the skin disease shingles. For most cases of chickenpox, no treatment besides pain relief and management of itching is necessary. In some cases, however, chickenpox may evolve into more serious conditions, such as bacterial infection of the skin lesions or pneumonia. These complications tend to occur in persons with weakened immune systems, such as children receiving chemotherapy for cancer or people with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). A vaccine for chickenpox is now receiving widespread use.

Despite its name, chickenpox has nothing to do with chickens. Its name has two possible origins. Some think that "chicken" comes from the French word chiche (chick-pea) because at one stage of the disease, the lesions do indeed resemble chick-peas. Others think that "chicken" may have evolved from the Old English word gigan (to itch). Interestingly, the term "varicella" is a diminutive form of the term "variola," the Latin term for smallpox. Although both chickenpox and smallpox are viral diseases that cause skin lesions, smallpox is more deadly and its lesions cause severe scarring.


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