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Name: Bradley P.
Status: Student
Age: 20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: October 2002

I have chicken pox right now. what are the pox and why does our body produce them if they are so annoying?

You have my sympathy. Chicken pox is very annoying, especially in adults. It is caused by a virus -- varicella zoster -- the same (or closely related) virus causes shingles and herpes "fever blisters". It is spread by contact and inhalation and is VERY contagious, hence the person afflicted should avoid contact with other peoples (yes, quarantine) especially pregnant women and people with immune deficiencies, e.g. people taking cortisone orally.

The virus can lay dormant after first contact and re-appear years later as shingles. The treatment is symptomatic; however, vaccination can prevent the disease. In the large majority of cases the disease is self limiting. The rash usually starts at the trunk (chest/back) and spreads to the upper body. I do not think the exact reason why lesions form is known, but it has to be the body's over-production of histamine. Hence, anti-histamines are part of the symptomatic treatment.

Vince Calder

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