Editorials

Controlling chickenpox in hospitals

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7073.4 (Published 04 January 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:4

Vaccination may be the way forward

  1. E M Jones, Senior registrar in microbiologya,
  2. D S Reeves, Consultant microbiologista
  1. a Southmead Health Services NHS Trust, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol BS10 5NB

    Chickenpox seems to be affecting more older people.1 2 3 More adult patients are being seen in hospital. The reasons for this are not clear, although Ross and Lantos have suggested that the explanation may simply be the increasing number of immigrants from tropical countries, where fewer adults have immunity to chickenpox.4 Whatever the reasons for the trend, more adult patients with chickenpox are being seen in hospitals. Chickenpox is highly contagious from two or three days before the rash appears until the lesions crust. Fluid from the vesicles of shingles is also infectious. Chickenpox is potentially a very serious illness in adults, in pregnancy, and in patients who are immunosuppressed (including those taking corticosteroids5). Because the disease is transmissible before the rash appears it poses particular problems for the tracing and subsequent management of patients' contacts and also staff contacts.

    The new edition of Immunisation against Infectious Disease 19966 recommends that people at increased risk of severe varicella zoster infection who are exposed to chickenpox or herpes zoster should be tested for antibodies …

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