Previously chickenpox was largely unavoidable. However, a vaccine against chickenpox is now available. This is a safe and effective vaccine. It is in use as a routine childhood vaccination in many developed countries notably the USA.
While the chicken pox vaccination known as varicella vaccine is readily available in South Africa, it is not yet routinely funded by the state as a childhood vaccination.
The vaccination is 95% effective in preventing chicken pox infection. It can be safely used in infants from 12 months of age. Ask your doctor about the chickenpox vaccine if your child has not yet had it.
Great care should still be taken to avoid exposing immune-compromised people for example someone being treated for cancer or is malnourished to anyone with chickenpox or anyone who has recently been in contact with chickenpox.
Following infection with chicken pox, a person is infectious from about two days before the rash develops until all the blisters have crusted, which usually takes about six days from the start of the rash.
In order not to infect others, avoid social contact while the chicken pox blisters are present. School-going children should not attend school until all their blisters have crusted and fallen off. It is usually sufficient to stay home for one week.
Symptoms of chickenpox
Causes of chickenpox
Risk factors for chickenpox
Revised and reviewed by Prof Eugene Weinberg, Paediatrician and Paediatric Allergist, Health24 expert, February 2015.