What is chickenpox? Who gets chickenpox? And what do chickens have to do with chickenpox? We’ll take a look at these questions and more in this post.
What Do Chickens Have to Do with Chickenpox?
Despite the name, people do not get chickenpox from chickens. In fact, the disease has nothing to do with birds at all, and the virus that causes the disease is a member of the herpes family. So how did the name “chickenpox” come about?
There are a couple of different theories, including a mispronunciation or misreading of an Old English word. It’s believed that the disease was originally referred to a giccan, which means “to itch,” but may have been confused with the term cicen, which means “young fowl,” or it got corrupted into the term “chicken.”
It’s also possible that it’s referred to as chickenpox because this disease is a milder infection than smallpox and syphilis, which is referred to as the Great Pox. For whatever reason, the word “chicken” has become synonymous with being weak, so when compared to the Great Pox, chickenpox is wimpier and weaker.
There has also been an argument that claims it’s called chickenpox because the rash looks like chickpeas or like a person has been pecked by a bird’s beak. In either case, when a person gets chickenpox, they more than often break out in a red rash that is super itchy.
Who Gets Chickenpox?
Pretty much anyone is susceptible to getting chickenpox, but it is more often found in children, with kids under the age of 2 being the most at risk. People who are more susceptible to becoming infected with the virus include those who haven’t had the virus before, haven’t had the chickenpox vaccine, live with kids, or work in a daycare or school.
The virus spreads incredibly easily. It is contracted by breathing in particles that come from the rash or by coming in contact with a surface that the particles have landed on. The best way to prevent the disease from spreading is to get vaccinated. This occurs in two shots, one given at the age of 12 to 15 months, with another being administered at 4 to 6 years of age.
If an adult contracts the disease, they can also develop serious complications. After a person has had chickenpox, the virus stays in their nerve cells for years. They can become active at any time later in the person’s life and more often than not lead to shingles. Thankfully, there is a vaccine for shingles, and it is recommended that people over the age of 60 get this vaccine.
Symptoms of chickenpox often appear 10 to 21 days after being exposed to the virus. These include body aches, fever, fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, and a headache. Within 1 to 2 days, the rash will show up. This comes in three phases: papules, vesicles, and finally open wounds that then scab over. It’s possible to have all three phases at one time on a person’s body.
Chickenpox generally only lasts for 5 to 10 days. Using medicine to reduce the fever, as well as taking a bath in oatmeal or using calamine lotion to reduce the itch, can be helpful. It’s also important to stay hydrated. While the itching can be unbearable, it’s recommended that a person not scratch as this can cause a host of other issues, including a bacterial skin infection or scarring.
The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get vaccinated.
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