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:
- Avoid contact with people who have it
- Avoid sharing personal items with people infected with the illness
- Get a ]]>chickenpox vaccination]]>
Since 1995, a safe, highly effective varicella vaccine has been available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend that all healthy people (especially, adults and infants over the age of 1) who have not had chickenpox receive the vaccination. If you’re not sure if you have had chickenpox, a blood test can be done to determine whether or not you are immune to the disease.
You should not receive the varicella vaccine if:
- You are severely allergic to neomycin or gelatin.
- You have recently been quite ill and are not yet fully recovered .
- You have received certain kinds of blood or plasma transfusions in the preceding five months.
- Your immune system is compromised by ]]>HIV]]> , purposeful immunosuppression (as after a ]]>kidney transplant]]> ), or a congenital condition.
- Someone who lives with you has a compromised immune system and cannot avoid exposure to you for three weeks following your immunization in the event you develop a rash.
- You have certain disorders affecting your blood, bone marrow, or lymphatic system.
- You are pregnant or might become pregnant within the next month. (According to the CDC and other experts, women should avoid becoming pregnant for one month following varicella vaccination.)
- You are taking relatively large doses of corticosteroids or are on other immunosuppressant drugs.
- You are currently taking aspirin. Because of the association between aspirin and ]]>Reye’s syndrome]]> in children and teens with chickenpox, the resumption of aspirin should ideally be delayed for six weeks after a chickenpox vaccination. Where this is not feasible, you should carefully discuss risks and benefits with your doctor.
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
American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.familydoctor.org/ .
Chickenpox. Medline Plus website. Available at: http://medlineplus.gov/ .
National Centers for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod .
National Immunization Program. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nip/default.htm .
The Merck Manual of Medical Information. 17th ed. Simon and Schuster, Inc.; 2000.
Last reviewed February 2009 by ]]>David Juan, MD ]]>
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