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Post‐exposure prophylaxis vaccine to prevent varicella (chickenpox)

This review assessed how useful the varicella (also known as chickenpox) vaccine is in preventing chickenpox when given to children or adults who have never been immunised or previously had chickenpox, but who receive the vaccine within a short time following exposure to a person infectious with chickenpox. Varicella is a highly contagious viral infection characterised by a widespread pustular rash, fever and generally feeling unwell. We identified three trials involving 110 healthy children who were siblings of household contacts.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet] - John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Version: 2014

How can you avoid getting chickenpox?

Chickenpox is highly contagious. If you are not immunized and have never had chicken pox, contact with someone who has it will almost always leave you infected. Early vaccination and being careful around those who already have chickenpox are the most important precautions you can take.Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, one of the herpes viruses. The German Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) at the Robert Koch Institute recommends being vaccinated to lower your chances of infection. If you or someone in your family gets chickenpox there are several things you can do to avoid getting it yourself.Most importantly, people who have chickenpox should avoid contact with anyone who has not had it and who also may be more likely to develop more severe symptoms. This especially includes people with a weakened immune system, newborn babies, and non-vaccinated adults. The virus can harm the unborn child during pregnancy, and can be life-threatening for newborns. But although chickenpox is very unpleasant, it only rarely has serious consequences for otherwise healthy children.

Informed Health Online [Internet] - Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).

Version: June 30, 2014

Varicella and influenza vaccines may reduce morbidity in patients with blood cancers

Viral infections cause significant disease and even death in patients with blood cancers. In the current systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) we aimed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of viral vaccines in these patients. The pre‐defined primary outcome was incidence of the infection concerned. Secondary outcomes were mortality due to the viral infection, all‐cause mortality, incidence of complications, incidence of severe viral infection, hospitalization rate, in vitro immune response and frequency of adverse effects. Eight RCTs were included. They evaluated heat‐inactivated varicella zoster virus (VZV) vaccine (two trials), influenza vaccines (five trials) and inactivated poliovirus vaccine (one trial). There were no RCTs on other viral vaccines (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella). Only the two trials on VZV vaccine reported our pre‐defined primary outcome. All trials reported some of the pre‐defined secondary outcomes. We found that inactivated VZV vaccine might reduce the severity of herpes zoster when given before and after stem cell transplant in adults with lymphoma or leukemia. Inactivated influenza vaccine might reduce upper and lower respiratory infections and hospitalization in adults with multiple myeloma who are undergoing chemotherapy, or children with leukemia or lymphoma within two years post‐chemotherapy. However, the quality of evidence is not high. Local adverse effects occur frequently with the vaccines, although serious adverse effects appear uncommon. Further high‐quality RCTs are needed to clarify the benefits and optimal regimens of viral vaccines for patients with blood cancers.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet] - John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Version: 2011

Chickenpox: Overview

A very itchy rash with reddish blisters and mild fever are the main symptoms of chickenpox. This contagious viral infection mostly affects children between the ages of two and ten. Here you can find useful information on the symptoms, and read about options for preventing and treating chickenpox.

Informed Health Online [Internet] - Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).

Version: June 30, 2014

Vaccines for preventing herpes zoster in older adults

The virus responsible for chickenpox, varicella zoster virus (VZV), can remain dormant inside nerve cells. Years later, when a person's immunity declines, for example because of aging, the virus may reactivate and travel through the nerve to the skin surface, producing clusters of blisters distributed along the path of the affected nerve, a condition called herpes zoster or shingles. Itching, numbness, tingling or localised pain precede the appearance of skin lesions. The virus causes inflammation of sensory nerves and can cause severe pain which impacts patients' quality of life. The annual incidence of herpes zoster is currently 5.22 episodes per 1000 older adults. This incidence is increasing, in part due to longer lifespan.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet] - John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Version: 2012

Shingles: Overview

Anyone who has already had chicken pox could develop shingles later on in life. Both are caused by the same virus. A weakened immune system, possibly as a result of a cold, or extreme stress can lead to increased susceptibility to this often very painful rash. It usually takes a total of two to four weeks to clear up completely.

Informed Health Online [Internet] - Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).

Version: November 19, 2014

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