Previously, chicken pox was largely unavoidable. However, a safe, effective vaccine is now available.
It’s in use as a routine childhood vaccination in many developed countries, notably the USA.
While the chicken pox vaccination (the varicella vaccine) is readily available in South Africa in private paediatric practice, it’s not yet routinely funded by the state as a childhood vaccination.
The vaccination is 95% effective in preventing chicken pox infection and it can be safely used in infants from 12 months of age.
Ask your doctor about the chicken pox vaccine if your child hasn’t yet been infected.
Great care should still be taken to avoid exposing immune-compromised people (e.g. those who are malnourished, being treated for cancer or HIV positive) to anyone with chicken pox or anyone who has recently been in contact with chicken pox.
Following infection with the virus, a person is infectious from about 2 days before the rash develops until all the blisters have crusted, which usually takes about 6 to 7 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 shouldn’t attend school until all their blisters have crusted and fallen off. It’s usually sufficient to stay home for one week.
Reviewed by paediatrician Prof Eugene Weinberg. MBChB; FCP (SA); PAED (SA). March 2018.