A Contagious Virus Is Making A Comeback In Montana. Who Is Passing It Around?
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services sys the state is seeing increases in chickenpox cases in school aged children. And state officials think they know why.
They say unvaccinated children are getting the chickenpox virus most often from adult family members with shingles. Shingles is a reactivation of the varicella virus, the virus that causes chickenpox. State officials say the virus is easily transmitted and the only way to protect yourself is to get the chickenpox vaccination.
In 2022 there were 23 cases of chickenpox reported in Montana. During the first four months of this year, 18 cases have already been reported and that's a 200% increase from the year before.
Montana health officials say one way to prevent the spread of the virus is to make sure shingle rashes are covered to prevent the spread to children. For anyone 50 or older it is recommended that you get the shingle shot.
Chickenpox begins with a rash and fever and the rash usually shows up within ten to 20 days from the first exposure. It is highly contagious to those who are not immune, especially those who have not been vaccinated with two doses of chickenpox vaccine. Chickenpox can also be serious, even life-threatening, especially in babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems. The vaccine is excellent at preventing chickenpox by providing 98.3% effectiveness.
Once the chickenpox rash appears, it goes through three phases:
- Raised bumps called papules, which break out over a few days.
- Small fluid-filled blisters called vesicles, which form in about one day and then break and leak.
- Crusts and scabs, which cover the broken blisters and take a few more days to heal.