With children returning to class, the risk of them catching chickenpox is very present. But is it possible to catch it again, as an adult? Here is the response from Dr. Gérald Kierzek, emergency physician and medical director of TipsForWomens.
With children returning to the community, whether to daycare or school, the risk of catching chickenpox is greater. But is it possible, as an adult, to catch chickenpox a second time, if you already contracted it as a child?
Chickenpox is usually only caught once.
Chickenpox is a pathology that benefits from permanent immunity, this means that having had it once, it is practically not possible to contract it a second time.
The only case where this could possibly happen concerns two categories of people: those who were affected by the virus very young, before the age of six months and immunocompromised people.
In the first case, it is the mother’s antibodies which provide protection for the infant. Since the immune system is still immature at this age of life, antibodies are not formed. As an adult, it will therefore be possible to contract the disease again.
For the second case, it concerns fragile people, whose immunity is not optimal: immunocompromised people, those weakened by another virus such as HIV or affected by cancer, under chemotherapy, which weakens the immune defenses.
Reactivation of the virus in the form of shingles
What happens more frequently than a second chickenpox is shingles. “The chickenpox virus remains dormant in the body’s nerve ganglia. It can then reactivate at any time: this is what we call shingles.explains Dr. Gérald Kierzek, emergency physician and medical director of TipsForWomens. In fact, the two viruses are one, we are talking about the varicella-zoster virus. It can reactivate for several reasons:
- Age, you should know that shingles is more common after the age of 50;
- A drop in immune defenses, such as intense fatigue or stress;
- A disease leading to immune deficiency, which occurs when the body is affected by cancer or infection.
In all these situations, the virus causes a “rash in bands, along a specific nervous territory” adds the doctor. These pimples cause itching, a burning sensation, sometimes fever. It is then necessary to disinfect the wounds and take antiviral treatment. In more than 90% of cases, the course is benign and the rash disappears after two to three weeks.