Chickenpox is one of the more common communicable diseases in the world. It is also known as varicella, and it is highly contagious. It includes a variety of easily identifiable symptoms, and complications could happen in certain cases. This paper will present a list of epidemiologic information about the disease, including its description, relation to the epidemiologic triangle, and other factors from a perspective of a nurse.
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Chickenpox is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus called “varicella-zoster.” Its symptoms include a feeling of sickness, high fever, headaches, tiredness, loss of appetite, aching muscles, and the most recognizable symptom is an itchy rash with blisters. The number of blisters can often reach numbers higher than 250 and even 500. After about two days, the blisters cloud over and develop into scabs, which fall off about ten days after drying out. During this time, new blisters may appear. The disease spreads through the airborne method after the carrier sneezes or coughs. It can also spread through direct contact with the skin of the infected person (Stevens et al., 2014).
Complications of the disease are less common among children. However, adults, pregnant women, newborns, infants up to four weeks old, and people with weakened immune systems are likely to suffer from complications. Chickenpox complications may include pneumonia, skin infections, brain inflammation, dehydration, shingles, and Reye’s syndrome. Pregnant women are at additional risk because infection during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy may result in the fetus developing fetal varicella syndrome, which can lead to a variety of complications such as scarring, deformities of appendages, and other issues. Despite its highly infectious nature, the treatment usually focuses on addressing the symptoms rather than a “curing” treatment. A vaccine for chickenpox exists, and it is 90 percent effective at preventing the disease. It is usually given to children at 12-15 months of age and again at age 4-6 (Williams & Rice, 2016).
A range of recommendations exists which helps to combat the symptoms of Chickenpox. For pain and fever, Tylenol is often used, as Aspirin containing products may lead to complications. To avoid dehydration, a large number of fluids must be ingested by the patient. Also, despite the severe urge to scratch the blisters, scratching should be avoided because it may lead to future scarring of the skin. The disease itself usually resolves itself in about ten days after the infection, sometimes lasting two weeks (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017).
After the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine in 1995, the morbidity and mortality of the disease have significantly decreased. According to the statistics presented by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, only 11,000 cases in the United States were recorded, and information about deaths is not available, but statistics from 2012 suggest that the number is below 10. The incidence of the disease has declined over 98% since the year 1995, which shows the effectiveness of the vaccine in the prevalence of Chickenpox (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017).
Determinants of Health
The World Health Organization defines the determinants of heath as factors that affect the health of individuals which are usually based on their circumstances and environment. The three main determinants include social and economic environment, physical environment, and person’s individual characteristics. The disease is highly infectious, so only a few factors can have a significant impact on the spread of the disease. However, because people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing complications, some determinants should be considered. Specifically, genetics, as people with chronic diseases have shown to be more likely to be infected, and gender factor because of the risk of the fetus being infected during pregnancy (World Health Organization, 2017).
The Epidemiologic Triangle
The epidemiologic triangle consists of three corners: host, agent, and environment. Host represents the organism that is carrying the disease. It could be either a person who is sick or any animal carrier. They might be sick or not, depending on the disease. In the case of Chickenpox, the carrier is the infected person. The agent is the cause of the disease. These could include bacteria, virus, fungi, and protozoa. As in most cases, the agent in the case of Chickenpox is a virus, specifically the varicella virus. The environment is the favorable external surroundings and conditions that are favorable to the transmission of the disease.
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These factors are dependent on the disease that is being analyzed through the epidemiologic triangle. Different diseases prefer different conditions such as dirty water, blood, warm weather, humidity, and many other factors. Some factors can also be detrimental to the spread of the disease so their absence can be a positive factor for the environment. Chickenpox is an airborne disease that benefits from close proximity to the infected host and air circulation. Another factor would be the lack of vaccination of the host, as the vaccine has proven to be highly effective in preventing the spread of the disease (World Health Organization, 2017).
The Role of the Community Health Nurse
Chickenpox is a highly infectious disease, so the nurse plays a large role in the community. The disease has to be tracked to gain accurate data on the demographics such as morbidity, mortality, incidence, and prevalence. Some cases have to be found by the nurse through the diagnosis of the disease in patients that show symptoms of it. This data can be later analyzed and correlated in order to determine risk factors in the community. This data is later reported to the appropriate agencies that track this information.
Since the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine in 1995, the role of the community health nurse has expanded to advocating of said vaccine to the public. Due to the actions of anti-vaccination groups, this became a much more important issue. The vaccine is highly effective, and its benefits and safety should be emphasized by the nurses in the community. The increased risk of complications in the adult patients makes education about the disease a priority. Information about the treatment of symptoms, dangers that are associated with the disease, and the risk of the disease developing into shingles should be included in the education. All these factors make Chickenpox one of the priority diseases in the work of a community health nurse (Baxter et al., 2013).
A National Agency That Addresses the Disease
The main governmental agency that addresses Chickenpox is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It was established in 1946 to supersede the World War II Malaria Control in War Areas program of the Office of National Defense Malaria Control Activities. It is a branch of the U.S. Public Health Service. The agency expanded its focus from malaria to other diseases in 1957 when it started focusing on sexually transmitted diseases, and again in 1963 when the Immunization program was created. This organization is one of the main governmental organizations that works on prevention and disease control through education, vaccination, data collection, data analysis, and takes other actions to assist the population in the fight against every type of disease.
Chickenpox specifically is addressed by the organization in a variety of ways. To educate the population, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has multiple guides, quick fact sheets, and other information presented on the site. Most of the information is available in English and Spanish to ensure the widest possible spread of awareness. The information is given in both detailed descriptions and bullet point lists. This lets the user of the site decide how much they would like to know about the disease.
Another feature of the site is the ability to print out any page in a convenient format for future use. Some pages even allow color versions for better visual appeal. CDC is also responsible for the implementation of the Chickenpox vaccine in the United States after it was licensed in 1995. By collecting data from before its implementation and after, the organization was able to provide demographics that show the impressive effect that the vaccine had on the population. The same data collection and analysis is done for other infectious diseases (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017).
Chickenpox is one of the most well-known diseases due to its high infectious rate and visible symptoms. This status has been kept up despite the dramatic fall in its demographics since 1995. This is due to the active effort on the part of nurses and governmental organizations to educate the population and promote vaccination of the disease.
Baxter, R., Ray, P., Tran, T., Black, S., Shinefield, H., Coplan, P., … & Saddier P. (2013). Long-term effectiveness of varicella vaccine: A 14-year, prospective cohort study. Pediatrics, 131(5), 1389-1396.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). CDC works 24/7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Stevens, D., Bisno, A., Chambers, H., Dellinger, E., Goldstein, E., Gorbach, S., … Wade J. (2014). Practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of skin and soft tissue infections: 2014 update by the infectious diseases society of America. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 59(2), 10-52.
Williams, C. & Rice, P. (2016). Chickenpox exposure in pregnancy – a comparison of a qualitative and a quantitative varicella zoster virus antibody assay and follow up of patient outcome. Journal of Clinical Virology, 82, 108-109.
World Health Organization. (2017). World Health Organization.