Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It results in a rash with blisters, itching, fatigue, and fever. The rash initially appears on the stomach, back, and face, and can later spread throughout the body, as stated by Dr. María Elena Pérez Escutia, Head of the Pediatrics Department at the Clínica Hospital APP Mérida del ISSSTE, located in Susulá.
She mentioned that typically, chickenpox lasts for 4 to 7 days. “The classic symptom of chickenpox is a rash that develops into fluid-filled blisters that itch and eventually scab over.”
She explained that chickenpox causes general discomfort, fever, and a skin and mucous membrane rash with small, intensely itchy vesicles that, when they burst, form scabs and eventually leave a mark. The mark depends on how you care for the scab, as it represents the healing process of the lesion. The infection manifests 10 to 21 days after exposure.
She stated that many doctors divide chickenpox into three phases following the outbreak: the first phase involves the appearance of papules or small bumps filled with fluid, leading to the second phase of vesicles, which are these fluid-filled bumps. When they break and drain all the contents, they dry up and form scabs, which represent the third phase. It takes several days for the skin to repair, and if the scab is forcibly removed, a scar may result. The depth of the scar determines whether it is reversible or permanent.
She mentioned that chickenpox is generally a mild illness, but it can be widespread, covering the entire body, including mucous membranes such as the eyes, urethra, anus, and vagina, which can be very painful and uncomfortable. The pain may require hospitalization to initiate therapy with immunoglobulin, a substance that aids the body in fighting the infection.
Similarly, when a doctor detects the infection, they know it is viral and there is no medication to counteract the illness. However, there are medications available to reduce the number of days of discomfort. Therefore, an oral antiviral and medication to alleviate itching or pruritus are recommended to minimize scarring in both severe and mild cases.
Information has been obtained regarding a decrease in the number of chickenpox cases in Yucatan. Most of the affected individuals have been reported in municipalities adjacent to Campeche in the southern and western regions of the state, as well as in more populous areas such as Valladolid in the eastern part of the state and Mérida, the state capital of Yucatan.
She mentioned that a vaccine exists as a preventive measure to reduce the spread of the disease, which has been known since 1970 and originated in Japan. This vaccine can be administered together with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine or with the DPT vaccine (polio, hepatitis B, and meningitis). The secondary reactions are mild and include fever, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, pain, and swelling at the injection site, as well as a mild rash.