Chickenpox is a highly contagious and very common disease that is often described as one of the "classic" children's diseases, because so many people suffer from it during their childhood.
However, chickenpox is not just a "child's disease". Adults can catch chickenpox if they have not had the disease when they were younger.
According to one "history of medicine book", Giovanni Filippo (1510 - 80) of Palermo gave the first description of varicella (chicken pox). In the 1600s, Richard Morton, an English physician, described what he thought was a mild form of smallpox as "chicken pox". In 1767, an English physician named William Heberden, demonstrated that chicken pox was different from smallpox.
There are many possible explanations for the origin of the name chickenpox. For example, the blisters on the skin made it look like the skin had been pecked by chickens. However, the simplest explanation is offered by Samuel Johnson, who said that the disease was "no very great danger" thus it was described as a "chicken" version of the pox.
Chickenpox sufferers experience general mild flu-like symptoms, such as headache, fever, stomach ache, and also a loss of appetite, along with hundreds of itchy, fluid-filled blisters that burst and form crusts. These blisters mainly affect the face, arms, legs, torso, and scalp.
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), also known as human herpes virus 3 (HHV-3), which is a member of the herpes family and is known to cause herpes zoster (shingles) in adults.
Usually chickenpox is usually a fairly mild disease, but a range of serious and rare complications can result in some cases, such as encephalitis, Reye's syndrome, pneumonia, myocarditis, and transient arthritis. Medical treatment should be obtained immediately if there is any sign of these occurring.
Chickenpox can also cause serious complications for babies during pregnancy.
In most cases, it is enough to keep the chickenpox sufferer comfortable while their own bodies fight the illness. Oatmeal baths in lukewarm water, calamine lotion, antihistamine lotions, and topical lotions can help ease the itching.
Chickenpox virus is an airborne virus, which means that it spreads via the air. In addition, chickenpox can be spread by direct contact, and it is highly contagious even before the rash appears. As such, people often inadvertently spread the disease around before they even realise that they have it.
The best way to avoid chickenpox is be immunized against the disease. Since the chickenpox vaccine was introduced, it has been a far less common disease.