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Childhood illnesses - Chicken pox

Useful information on the history, symptoms and treatment of chicken pox.
Chicken pox, also spelled chickenpox, is a common childhood disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), also known as human herpes virus 3 (HHV-3), one of the eight herpesviruses known to affect humans.


One history of medicine book claims that Giovanni Filippo (1510 - 80) of Palermo gave the first description of varicella (chicken pox). Subsequently in the 1600s, an English physician named Richard Morton described what he thought was a mild form of smallpox as "chicken pox." Later, in 1767, a physician named William Heberden, also from England, was the first physician to clearly demonstrate that chicken pox was different from smallpox. However, it is believed that the name chicken pox was commonly used in earlier centuries before doctors knew what they were seeing.

Chicken pox is characterised by a fever followed by itchy raw pox or open sores. Chicken pox has a two week incubation period and is highly contagious by air transmission two days before symptoms appear. Therefore chicken pox spreads quickly through schools and other places of close contact. Once someone was infected with the disease, they usually develop an immunity and cannot get it again. As the disease is more severe if contracted by an adult, parents have been known to ensure that their children became infected before adulthood.


The disease is rarely fatal: if it does cause death, it is usually from varicella pneumonia, which occurs more frequently in pregnant women. Doctors advise that pregnant women who come into contact with chickenpox should contact their doctor immediately as the virus can cause serious problems for the foetus. Later in life, virus remaining in the nerves can develop into the painful disease, shingles.
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My daughter has chicken pox, and my work colleague that sits next to me is 6 weeks pregnant. Is there a risk here for my colleague?
by erinlove 29th Jun 2009, 9:59am
hi my daughter has just got chiccken pox,my son is at playgroup should i send him or keep him of,he is showing no signs of having it yet???
by mand9174 5th Mar 2009, 9:18am
hi can anyone tell me what age is best for your children to have chicken pox by?
by marmite 30th Jan 2008, 10:06am
Hello, I have 27 month old twins and 17 month old triplets all suffering from chickenpox as we speak, is there anything anyone can recommended to relieve my babies from the itchiness as the lotion the doctor prescribed seems to make them worse???
by rreidford 28th Jan 2008, 6:13pm