Chicken Pox

What is Chicken Pox?

Chickenpox is an acute, highly infectious disease caused by the varicella zoster (VZ) virus. It is transmitted by direct contact from person to person. The chance of getting chicken pox in the same household can be as high as 90%. After exposure it can take anywhere between 1 and 3 weeks. Chicken pox is common and mostly affects children, but people can get it at any age. The main symptom of chickenpox is a itchy, spotty rash. Chicken pox usually gets better by itself after 1 to 2 weeks without needing to see a GP. It is possible to get chicken pox more than once, but its unusual. Almost all children develop immunity to chickenpox after infections, so most only catch it once. It can be more severe in adults.

Who is at risk from Chicken Pox?

Chickenpox vaccines are not part of the childhood vaccination program in the UK; therefore all children are at risk of getting chicken pox. However, in children symptoms are mild and complications are rare. Some people have a higher risk of developing serious complications from chicken pox. These include:

  • People who have a weakened immune system through illnesses such as HIV or treatments like chemotherapy
  • Pregnant women

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of chicken pox is an itchy, spotty rash which can anywhere on the body including inside the mouth and around the genital which can be painful. Chicken pox occurs in 3 stages:

  1. Small spots appear –
  2. The spots become blisters.
  3. The blisters become scabs – some scabs are flaky while other leak fluid.

New spots can appear while others becoming blisters or forming a scab. Other Symptoms include:

  • A high temperature
  • Aches and pains, and generally feeling unwell
  • Loss of appetite

Chicken pox is very itchy and can make people feel miserable, even if they do not have many spots. The posts look the same on children and adults. Adults usually have a high temperature for longer and have more spots than children.

Can I use the DC Chicken Pox Vaccination Service?

Vaccination is recommended to people who are not immune to chickenpox and are in close contact with people at risk of becoming seriously ill if they catch it. This includes:

  • Those with a with a weakened immune system like those having chemotherapy.
  • Any children in close contact with someone having chemotherapy.
  • Pregnant women
  • Those whose job puts them at risk e.g., healthcare workers in contact with patients (including cleaners, catering staff and reception staff) or laboratory staff.

The vaccine is not given to:

  • People with a weakened immune system as the vaccine contains small amounts of the live virus that causes chickenpox.

Your DC pharmacist will double check your suitability for the vaccine.

What are the side effects to the Chicken Pox Vaccine?

Common Side Effects
The most common side effects of the chicken pox vaccine are:

  • Soreness and redness around the injection site – this happens in 1 in 5 children and 1 in 4
    teenagers and adults.
  • A mild rash – this happens in 1 in 10 children and 1 in 20 adults.
  • High temperature

Serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) are area. They occur in around 1 in a million vaccinated
people. Your DC team are fully trained to deal with these types of reactions. Millions of doses have
been given, and there is no evidence of any increased risk of developing a long-term health
condition as a result of the vaccination.

What happens next?

  1. Book a virtual consultation via online portal
  2. A DC pharmacist will review your suitability for the yellow fever vaccine service
  3. Receive vaccine at our centres

How long will this take?

The first consultation will take 15 – 30 minutes (depending on your past medical history). The vaccination appointment will take 30 minutes (including a 15 minutes observed wait in case of severe reaction)

What else do I need to know before appointment?

The vaccine will be administered in the upper arm of your choice. The vaccine is given as 2 separate injections 4 to 8 weeks apart. It has been shown that 9 out of 10 children vaccinated with a single dose will develop immunity against chicken pox. Having 2 doses is recommended as this gives a better immune response. The vaccination is not quite as affective after childhood. It is estimated that three-quarters of teenagers and adults who are vaccinated will become immune to chicken pox.