Chickenpox making rounds through area

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Although no cases have been reported yet in Craig, chickenpox (varicella) season is in the midst and surrounding community members have become unfortunate victims. Two cases have been reported in Hayden and one in Steamboat.

"The virus comes in cycles. It hits here about this time of year and in the Spring," said Ann Pankonin, registered nurse with the Visiting Nurse Association. "It never goes away."

According to Pankonin, chickenpox begins with a fever lasting between a few hours to a day or two. After the fever, multiple small, red bumps appear that eventually progress into thin-walled water blisters, then cloudy blisters or open sores and finally dry crust. Some ulcers may appear in the mouth and other orifices.

Once the dry, hardened crust appears, the virus is no longer spreadable.

The bumps are very itchy. Although tempting to scratch, medical professionals stress the importance of not itching. According to Pankonin, scratching may cause second infections as fingers and fingernails are not always bacteria free.

Some of the itchiness can be relieved through calamine lotion, a lukewarm or cool bath, Tylenol or a bath in oatmeal or baking soda.

Chickenpox is an airborne, communicative virus. It can be spread from person to person through the air, or by contact with fluid from chickenpox blisters. It causes a rash, itching, fever and tiredness and can lead to severe infection, scars, pneumonia, brain damage or even death. Someone who has had the chickenpox virus can get shingles years later.

About 12,000 people are hospitalized for chickenpox each year and about 100 people die each year because of the virus. According to Pankonin, symptoms will appear in seven to 10 days after the initial contact with the virus.

To combat the virus, a vaccination is available. On July 1, 2000, this vaccination will be required before a child can enter school. Now, the vaccination is highly recommended. For children between the ages of 12 months and 12 years old, one dose is sufficient while those 13 and older should get two doses, four to eight weeks apart.

According to Pankonin, if you have had the virus before, it is highly unlikely you will catch it again and the vaccination should keep you from getting chickenpox.

Children are not the only ones at risk for chickenpox. It is much more serious with adults and in many cases will require a hospital stay.

If not treated correctly, chickenpox can have lasting effects.

Medical attention for chickenpox should be sought if the child is difficult to awaken, is confused or delirious or has a stiff neck or severe headache, or, if pus is draining out from the chickenpox scabs.

New eruptions of chickenpox will continue to crop up daily for four or five days. Once these eruptions stop, children usually start to feel better. The eruptions rarely leave any permanent scars unless they become badly infected with impetigo. They can leave temporary marks on the skin that take six to 12 months to fade.

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