Chicken pox is a common childhood disease that causes fever and a rash consisting of small, fluid-filled blisters or vesicles. It is caused by a virus called varicella zoster virus. The incubation time from infection to outbreak is two to three weeks. The disease is very contagious, and people living in the same house commonly infect each other. Newborns and small babies are usually protected by antibodies from their mother, though; the younger a child is, the less chance there is that he will be affected by the disease. The virus can also cause herpes zoster or shingles, which rarely occurs in children.
Chicken pox begins with a fever and influenza-like symptoms. A blotchy rash then appears on the face and trunk and small, fluid-filled blisters develop. These blisters usually burst and dry up, then crust over and disappear. The rash is very itchy and if the child scratches, there is a risk of bacterial infection, which may lead to the development of ulcers and scars. Crops of new lesions keep appearing for several days but after about a week, all the blisters will have dried up and the child will no longer be contagious. Painful lesions may sometimes develop on the mucous membranes of the mouth and genitals.
In rare cases, pox-induced complications like pneumonia and infections of the brain, bone, skin, and blood may be fatal. Signs of infections include pain and tenderness, increased redness and swelling, and pus. A child may also develop signs of meningitis (headache, drowsiness, retching, and neck stiffness).
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