Have you ever had chickenpox? Virus stays in the body forever and can even cause paralysis

Chickenpox is the first manifestation of the varicella-zoster virus in the infected organism.

Chickenpox is the first manifestation of the varicella-zoster virus in the infected organism.

Photo: Getty Images / BBC News Brazil

Once infected by chickenpoxthe patient will carry you forever in the organism. The first manifestation of the virus is the chickenpoxand even if the symptoms of the disease have already disappeared, the chickenpox remains dormant in the nerves.

Years after the first infection, the virus can reappear, with even worse consequences. It was the case of Fernanda Keullawho had to be rushed to hospital after experiencing pain that he called “unbearable” last week.

even the singer Justin bieber has already been a victim of the later manifestation of varicella-zoster. A few months ago, he canceled shows on his tour after half his face was paralyzed from the infection.

What is varicella-zoster?

The varicella-zoster virus, or VZV, is one of eight herpes viruses known to infect humans. It targets the nerves and causes a variety of symptoms depending on its stage of development.

According to infectologist Alexandre Naime Barbosa, who is also vice president of the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases (SBI), after the first infection, it enters a dormant state in the marrow and is reactivated whenever the patient has a drop in immunity.

Varicella-zoster virus lies dormant in the patient's body after chickenpox

Varicella-zoster virus lies dormant in the patient’s body after chickenpox

Photo: dermatosaude reproduction / Flipar

What diseases are caused by chickenpox?

THE chickenpox It is the first manifestation of varicella-zoster in the body. Its main symptom is the appearance of hundreds of blisters on the skin, which are very itchy. This is also a highly contagious disease of the virus and more common in children.

Once the symptoms have passed, the virus enters a dormant state in the infected person’s body and can go years without manifesting itself. Until, perhaps, the individual suffers a drop in immunity.

This is the opportunity that the virus finds to wake up and cause, this time, the disease shinglesalso known as “itch”. The popular name comes from the skin irritation that can appear as a painful blistering band.

Crises can happen several times during the life of the infected person. Stress in healthy people is often one of the biggest risk factors.

“There are patients who have it four or five times a year. It depends on the immunosuppression factor”, warns the infectologist.

There is still the Syndrome by Ramsay Hunt, which manifests itself when there is inflammation of the nerves of the face. In these patients, the virus causes partial facial paralysis in addition to pain.

Even with all the risks, Barbosa makes it clear that the diseases caused by chickenpox are not the rule. That is, not every child who has chickenpox will be an adult who will develop herpes zoster, for example. According to Barbosa, about only 15% of the total infected with the dormant virus develop the condition later.

Treatments are done in similar ways for all manifestations: with antivirals, corticosteroids, anti-inflammatories and vitamins, if necessary. It is important that they are done urgently, as the disease can develop further and leave sequelae.

What are the consequences of chickenpox?

Because of the damage it causes, diseases caused by chickenpox can cause a condition called postherpetic neuralgia, if not treated soon. In this case, the nerves become inflamed and cause the pain to remain, even after the disease is treated.

“The lesions have dried up, but the pain persists. There are cases that persist over six months to a year”, explains infectious disease specialist Alexandre Naime Barbosa.

Treatment is also done with anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids and pain relievers. However, there are extreme cases in which the pain is so much that more potent drugs need to be administered, according to Barbosa. “The pain is so strong that it is necessary, in some cases, to use even morphine”, he adds.

How to protect yourself from chickenpox?

THE chickenpox vaccine It is the best way to protect yourself from the chickenpox virus. The first dose is given to babies aged one year, while the second is given to babies between 15 months and 24 months of age. The minimum interval between doses should be three months.

In addition to this, a new vaccine against herpes zoster was also launched in June in Brazil. Since then, it has been available in private clinics across the country. The immunizer should be administered in two doses, with an interval of two months between applications.

This new vaccine is indicated for people over 50 and immunosuppressed patients aged 18 and over.

“It is a vaccine that reminds the immune system that, one day, that person had chickenpox. Thus, it stimulates the production of antibodies again”, explains Barbosa.

*With editing by Estela Marques.

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