Chickenpox Arrives at the Pan Am Games: Some Facts about a Miserable Ailment

By Branswell, Helen | The Canadian Press, July 10, 2015 | Go to article overview

Chickenpox Arrives at the Pan Am Games: Some Facts about a Miserable Ailment


Branswell, Helen, The Canadian Press


Chickenpox at the Pan Am Games: some facts

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TORONTO - A member of Mexico's female soccer team at the Pan Am Games has been diagnosed with chickenpox, Games officials have confirmed.

Here are some facts about chickenpox, a miserable ailment rendered fairly rare since the advent of an effective vaccine:

-- That's not its real name

We call it chickenpox. But this disease, which was once a part of most childhoods, is actually caused by the varicella-zoster virus.

These days, cases of chickenpox are less common as a result of the introduction of the varicella vaccine. The vaccine, administered on its own or combined with the vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella, is given in two doses in childhood.

It's one of the more effective vaccines. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 80 per cent of vaccinated people are fully protected. About 15 to 20 per cent could still contract chickenpox, but will have a milder course of disease and will recover more quickly.

-- It's itchy and it scars

You'd be hard pressed to find an adult over the age of 20 or so who doesn't have a chickenpox scar somewhere on their body. (The first varicella vaccine was introduced in Canada in 1998.)

The disease causes a blister-like red rash that is very itchy. "Don't scratch!" was always the mantra in households with chickenpox cases, because scratching picks off the scab on the blister and that's what causes scarring.

-- It's not just uncomfortable. It can also kill

Before the vaccine was introduced, most people caught chickenpox in childhood. It's one of the most contagious of the so-called childhood diseases, so if chickenpox hit a household or a neighbourhood, a lot of kids got sick.

In fact, some parents would throw "chickenpox parties" -- assuming since their children would eventually get the disease, they might as well get it over with. (Public health officials discourage chickenpox parties; they would prefer parents vaccinate children.)

Most people who contract chickenpox feel awful for a few days but then get better. But chickenpox can lead to skin infections and pneumonia. It can also cause necrotizing fasciitis -- flesh-eating disease -- in rare case, as well as stroke and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). …

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