Epidemiology: the Case of Chickenpox

Introduction

Chickenpox is a communicable viral disease associated with the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). VZV is a member of the herpes group of viruses and commonly linked with children but can also affect adults with a weakened immune system (Lopez, Zhang, Brown, & Bialek, 2011). Communicable diseases define the group of diseases that are transmittable through infective agents such as pathogens. Most infections occur via conduct with an infected individual.

These pathogens invade the human body and cause impairments to normal body functioning. The sources of infection include the environment in which the infective agents thrive. It includes infected human beings, livestock, insects, and soil. Chickenpox is transmitted through various modes, including contact with an infected person, in direct contact with things touched by infective agents (Marin, Zhang, & Seward, 2011). Chickenpox is also transferred via airborne transmission. The infective agent suspends the air and enters the human body via the breathing system.

The most common symptom of chickenpox is a rash that develops into itchy blisters. The rash may develop on the face, chest, hands, back, and later spread all over the body. Other symptoms may manifest before the rash. They include headaches, fatigue, fever, and lack of appetite. Complications associated with chickenpox are rare but severe. They include pneumonia, particularly among adults, septicemia, skin sepsis, encephalitis, and sometimes death.

Other complications during pregnancy include preterm birth. Treatment of chickenpox is needed when complications arise. However, in most cases, chickenpox heals without any medical procedure. Nonetheless, it is advisable to control the symptoms by taking measures such as the use of calamine lotion to reduce itching, avoid scratching of blisters or use of acyclovir medicine to reduce the severity of the symptoms.

Chickenpox is most prevalent among young children. However, it is usually a mild disorder at a young age. Some groups are at a higher risk of severe complications from chickenpox as compared to others. For instance, the pregnant woman who contracts chickenpox can infect the unborn fetus in pregnancy. This situation might lead to premature birth and minimize the chances of the baby survival. Therefore, the mortality rate among newborns is estimated to remain high due to chickenpox infection.

Those individuals with the suppressed immune system such as cancer patients, HIV, and organ transplant patients are highly susceptible to chickenpox infection. Chickenpox is also severe and can easily lead to the death of any individual who contracts the disease at old age.

The determinants of health and their contribution to chickenpox

Many factors combine to influence the wellbeing of people in a given location. Factors such as the environment of residence, income, health facilities, and social interactions have a significant effect on individual’s health (George, 2009).

However, the most prominent determinants of health in relation to chickenpox infection include the social, economic, and physical environment and the individual’s traits. The determinants of health of a certain population might vary depending on social class and availability of health awareness programs. Most of the determinants of health that contribute to chickenpox happen within the context of people’s lives and thus it is difficult to avoid.

Economic factors entail income and social status. Higher income and social status individuals are less likely to experience the symptoms of chickenpox. On the other hand, the poor people live in environments that support the breeding of the VZV. The physical environment around where the poor people live is in most cases a total mess. Drinking water and air are in most cases contaminated with an infectious virus such as the VZV.

Social support systems and educational programs are also vital to community health (Mikkonen & Raphael, 2010). Comprehensive support from friends, community health programs, and a supportive working environment is associated with good health. Most of the chickenpox patients who are financially unstable tend to be relatively ignorant and lack the information regarding chickenpox. It takes this kind of individuals a long time to seek medical advice or even care about the safety measures in areas of residence (George, 2009).

The epidemic triangle

The epidemic triangle is a structure developed by scientists to create a clear understanding of the health problems. This model assists students in tracking how the communicable diseases transmit. The triangle bears three components that include the host, the agent, and the environment. The host refers to the vulnerable population. The host or the organism bearing the disease is located at the one of the edges of the epidemic triangle.

The edge is referred to as the vertex. Hosts are in most cases human beings or animals exposed to and bear a disease. The host may or may not be aware that they have the disease. Different individuals may manifest varying responses to the same agent or virus. For instance, children often experience mild conditions when infected with VZV while adults are likely to develop serious complications. Similarly, patients with chronic diseases and the aged population are more susceptible to become hosts because of the weakened immune system (Schmid & Jumaan, 2010).

The agent is the root of the disease. The agent in most infectious diseases is a microbe that cannot be visible to the naked eyes. The microbe causing chickenpox is the varicella zoster virus. This virus invades the human body cells and carries on their reproductive activity to multiply. The environment is the thriving zone and conditions outside the host that facilitate disease transmission. Some diseases harbor in the dirty environments while there are others that dwell in the human blood system.

Environmental factors may also include the social, cultural, and physical aspects of the surroundings (Mikkonen & Raphael, 2010). Time is also a factor that determines the incubation period. Time is situated at the center of the epidemic triangle, and it describes the duration from infection to infection to the time the patient recovers or succumbs to illness.

The role of community healthcare nurses has evolved to go beyond the clinic settings and seek out chickenpox cases in an effort to get the chickenpox epidemic under control. Healthcare nurses have become active in case finding activities to take advantage of the increasing access to effective diagnosis of chickenpox symptoms. Contemporary case finding activities include active case finding whereby the nurse goes out to conduct chickenpox screening campaigns and household tracking. Nurses collect data about the health determinants that might exacerbate the chickenpox epidemic (Mikkonen & Raphael, 2010).

They formulate intervention measures and create awareness among the vulnerable populations. Community healthcare nurse involved in this intensive identification of chickenpox patients provide care services with follow-up visits to ensure that no cases of chickenpox persist in the communities (Marin et al., 2011).

Organization that addresses the chickenpox epidemic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers tools that individuals and societies require to protect their wellbeing by preventing diseases and containing emerging health threats. CDC is located along Clifton Road, Atlanta in the United States. CDC supports the eradication and control of chickenpox in the US in various ways. First, CDC has elaborate means of creating awareness across the US. Awareness campaigns tackle topic such as hand hygiene, early detection, clean environment, and managing infected people. For instance, CDC contact center responds to more than 300,000 inquiries annually on issues regarding communicable diseases and particularly chickenpox (Lopez et al., 2011).

CDC offers many publications free to the public in a bid to spread chickenpox awareness. Apart from creating awareness, CDC conducts screening campaigns across the US to resolve the chickenpox epidemic. CDC provides chickenpox vaccines for the vulnerable communities in the US and conducts follow-up visits to ensure successful healthcare practices. CDC has gathered huge volumes of research-based data that is useful for government planning on issues concerning the control of chickenpox.

Conclusion

Chickenpox is a highly communicable disease and common among the children but can affect adults even though not often. Chickenpox can lead to complex health conditions if not dealt with appropriately. Chickenpox patients may need to take medication to relieve the severity of the disease symptoms. However, community healthcare nurses have to take responsibility and act beyond the clinic settings to establish and eradicate cases of chickenpox among the vulnerable populations. Organizations such as the CDC should delve further into research to establish comprehensive intervention measures as well as promote the wellbeing of the vulnerable populations.

References

George, A. (2009). UNICEF’s contribution to address the social determinants of health. Global Health Promotion, 16(1), 64-65.

Lopez, A., Zhang, J., Brown, C., & Bialek, S. (2011). Varicella-Related Hospitalizations in the United States, 2000-2006: The 1-Dose Varicella Vaccination Era. Pediatrics, 127(2), 238-245.

Marin, M., Zhang, J., & Seward, J. (2011). Near Elimination of Varicella Deaths in the US after Implementation of the Vaccination Program. Pediatrics, 128(2), 214-220.

Mikkonen, J., & Raphael, D. (2010). Social determinants of health. Toronto, ON: York University Press.

Schmid, D., & Jumaan, A. (2010). Impact of Varicella Vaccine on Varicella-Zoster Virus Dynamics. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 23(1), 202-217.